When Monday night football wraps up, the fantasy season will end for some fantasy managers while others will turn their attention to the playoffs, which start this Sunday in many leagues. In senior FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson’s newest edition of “Traps & Trends, he puts three backfields, one possible wideout and one promising tight end under the microscope to see if they’re fantasy assets or fantasy fool’s gold for playoff bound team owners.
We’re 13 weeks into the regular season and just one week away from the playoffs starting in many leagues, but there are still disturbances in the fantasy football force.
1. Will the San Francisco 49ers’ second-rated rushing attack feature a new lead runner for the close of the regular season?
The Damage: With his team battling the Baltimore Ravens and Breida (ankle) sidelined for the third week in a row, Mostert assumed the backup duties behind usual starter Tevin Coleman and ran wild this past Sunday. Mostert toted the rock 19 times for 146 yards and one touchdown (7.7 yards per carry), which were all season highs, and tacked on two receptions for eight yards on two targets. What about Coleman? He carried just five times for a shockingly anemic six yards (1.2 yards per carry) and added one catch for nine yards. With Breida banged up and Coleman struggling, is Mostert the new king of the 49ers’ backfield?
The Diagnosis: TOSS-UP
San Francisco utilizes a run-first attack – and a darn good one – but unfortunately this is still a committee backfield that relies on whoever has the hot hand even though Coleman is commonly regarded as the starter. Even if Breida returns next week, there are no guarantees that he’ll be healthy and effective for the rest of the season. Since Coleman burned the Arizona Cardinals with an 11-105-3 rushing line back in Week 8, he has scored only once and failed to clear 40 rushing yards in a contest.
Is Mostert the new king of the 49ers’ backfield? It’s a no-brainer that he’ll remain involved, but I can’t promise you that he’ll be as effective in coming weeks as he was in the Baltimore game. Breida and/or Coleman could get hot, which obviously would impact Mostert’s per-game workloads. San Francisco’s Week 14 matchup @ New Orleans Saints looks like a toughie, but the 49ers’ Week 15 and Week 16 home matchups against the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams, respectively, are favorable.
2. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ usage of their tight ends has been super frustrating this season, and now the Bucs are tinkering with their backfield just in time for the fantasy playoffs.
The Damage: Heading into Week 13 action, everything in the Tampa Bay backfield looked cut and dry. Since the Buccaneers’ Week 7 bye, Jones had out-touched Barber 72 to 57, outgained him in yardage 321 to 133 and outscored him three to two. Jones was clearly the Tampa Bay tailback to own, despite his inconsistent usage in the team’s high-volume passing attack. Everything we thought we knew about this backfield was thrown out the window during the Buccaneers surprising pounding of a sinking Jacksonville Jaguars team this past Sunday. Barber carried 17 times for 44 yards and scored one but two touchdowns against a Jaguars defense that was ranked 29th versus the run. The early-down plodder didn’t draw any targets, which isn’t a shock. An ineffective Jones toted the rock six times for eight yards and failed to draw any targets. According to media reports, head coach Bruce Arians benched Jones for his poor play and for missing a block. Is Barber now the Tampa Bay tailback to own?
The Diagnosis: TOSS-UP
Unless Arians announces something definite in coming days, your guess about which back is the guy is as good as mine. Jones could quickly get back into Arians’ good graces with a nice Week 14 showing. Barber scored twice against Jacksonville, but his 2.6 yards per carry didn’t exactly set him up to own the backfield going forward. Oh yeah, he still very rarely catches passes. Here’s one thing I feel strongly about: It’s going to be super hard to trust either player in fantasy playoff starting lineups. The Bucs’ playoff matchups range from somewhat favorable to very favorable: Indianapolis Colts, @ Detroit Lions and Houston Texans.
3. Racking up two 100-yard outings in his previous two games, respectively, didn’t save this guy from getting benched this past Sunday. He also has the dubious distinction of burning many fantasy managers two weeks in a row. Is this guy worth stashing?
The Dude: Jonathan Williams
The Damage: It had looked like a new star was shining in the Indianapolis Colts backfield after Marlon Mack (hand surgery) ended up on the injury shelf in Week 12. With Jordan Wilkins battling an ankle injury, Williams stepped in during the Colts’ Week 11 clash and racked up 116 rushing yards on 13 carries and logged one reception for 31 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even though Wilkins was good to go and expected to see action in a committee versus the Houston Texans in Week 13, Williams dominated virtually all the carries. Parked on many fantasy benches (burn number one), he toted the rock 26 times for 104 yards and one touchdown, and caught one pass for 11 yards. Locked and loaded in many starting fantasy lineups this past Sunday however, Williams struggled against the Tennessee Titans, managing just 8-14-0 rushing and 1-11-0 receiving before he benched at halftime (burn number two). Wilkins finished as the primary runner with Nyheim Hines sprinkled in (six touches for 40 combo yards and one touchdown). Will Indianapolis utilize a Williams-free backfield going forward?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Barring a crazy injury scenario, we’ve probably seen the last of Williams for this season. In the Texans game, I suspect Wilkins wasn’t 100 percent healthy even though the team said otherwise, which is probably the real reason he didn’t log any touches. Wilkins is clearly the better runner of the two and moved back ahead of Williams in the pecking order and will hold down the starting duties until Mack returns. There are whispers that Mack is targeting a Week 14 return. If he’s a no-go this week, then Mack should be back for Week 15. He would face challenging fantasy playoff matchups @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers and @ New Orleans Saints before a great home matchup against the Carolina Panthers.