Will a certain quarterback continue playing like a champ at home but like a chump on the road? Is there finally some clarity in the Indianapolis Colts backfield? Are a couple of well-known tight ends rising into the ranks of the weekly starters? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson tackles those questions in his newest edition of “Traps & Trends.”
We’re just six weeks into the NFL season, but…
1. Famous Jameis didn’t throw for 400 yards this past Sunday…well, he came very close to it…but is he just as fantasy friendly as FitzMagic?
The Dude: Jameis Winston
The Damage: Making his first start of the season, Winston, shaking off a slow start, played solidly overall, making very few mistakes. He went 30 of 41 for 395 yards and four touchdowns against two interceptions, and the sneaky scrambler chipped in five carries for 31 yards during his team’s Week 6 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Unlike Ryan Fitzpatrick, Winston didn’t rely heavily on Mike Evans (4-58-0 on five targets) and DeSean Jackson (4-77-0 on nine targets). Winston completed passes to nine different receivers, including two guys who rarely showed up on Fitzpatrick’s radar: Adam Humphries (3-82-0 on four targets) and, believe it or not, Peyton Barber (4-24-1 on four targets). After just one start for Winston, does he deserve a spot among the must-start fantasy quarterbacks? Should we expect regular big passing performances from him?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes and yes. Entering Week 6 action, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were ranked 31st in rushing (Barber did have his best game of the season versus the Falcons) and 31st in total defense. Winston throwing the ball is the only thing keeping the Buccaneers competitive from week to week, so expect regular high-volume throwing from him. Winston’s supporting cast is clearly one of the deepest in the NFL, and offensive coordinator/play-caller Todd Monken will continue to feature an aggressive downfield aerial attack. Winston, as noted, occasionally will add a few fantasy points thanks to his solid rushing ability. The fourth-year pro is also a gunslinger, so interceptions are part of the Winston experience. His schedule looks loaded with largely plus matchups up until Week 14, which is when many fantasy playoff start. Winston’s fantasy playoff opponents – New Orleans (Week 14), at the Baltimore Ravens (Week 15) and at the Dallas Cowboys (Week 16) – looks like a slate of tough matchups. If you own Winston, keep this in mind.
2. Is there no place like home for this former NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year?
The Dude: Matt Ryan
The Damage: With six weeks of regular-season action in the books, we’re seeing a very sharp discrepancy in Ryan’s home/away splits. In two road contests played outdoors, he averaged just 268 passing yards and 0.5 touchdown passes per contest. That’s correct: Ryan tossed one touchdown pass in two road starts. However, in four games played at home sweet Mercedes–Benz Stadium in Atlanta, he has threw for 355 yards and 3.3 touchdowns per outing. While Ryan is clearly playing much better overall than he did last season, will this home/away disparity in Ryan’s production continue for the rest of 2018?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes, I suspect it will, and fantasy owners will need to keep this in mind. Ryan’s poor outdoor performances came in Week 1 (251-0-1) against a Philadelphia Eagles defense that has been proven to be not very good, and in Week 5 (285-1-0; not exactly an awful outing) against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that had been struggling mightily against the pass. Those disappointing performances in plus matchups simply can’t be written off and are a sign of a problem. Ryan’s Week 7 home matchup versus the New York Giants isn’t a worry. Following a Week 8 bye, however, four of Ryan’s next six games are road contests (at Washington, at Cleveland Browns, at New Orleans Saints and at Green Packers) that don’t look scary on paper, but fantasy owners will have to ratchet down expectations for Ryan.
3. Do we finally have some clarity in the Indianapolis Colts backfield?
The Dude: Marlon Mack
The Damage: Hampered by a nagging hamstring injury, Mack suited up for just one of the Colts’ first five contests. In Week 2, he carried 10 times for just 34 yards and caught one of two targets for two yards versus Washington, but he obviously was far from 100 percent healthy. This past Sunday, Mack, drawing the start, ran very well overall, toting the rock 12 times for 89 yards (7.4 yards per carry) and catching one of two targets for four yards during his team’s loss to the New York Jets. Mack’s only miscue of the day was a dropped pass that was picked-sixed. Indianapolis, trailing by multiple scores in the second half, had to pretty much abandon its ground game, otherwise he could have eclipsed the century mark very easily. The Colts’ backfield remains a timeshare, but is Mack the leader of the pack?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Topping the Indianapolis backfield in touches during the Jets game, Mack clearly was the No. 1 runner, and it looks like the Colts want him to be the main early-down guy. Mack out-touched the team’s top ball carrier from Week 5, rookie Nyheim Hines, 14 to five. Robert Turbin logged just five touches, and rookie Jordan Wilkins, who had averaged eight touches per contest from Week 3 through Week 5, was active but didn’t touch the ball in the New York game. It looks like Nyheim will remain in the mix for passing-down work, so Mack won’t roll up a ton of targets as a receiver. His next two matchups (versus Buffalo Bills in Week 7 and at Oakland Raiders in Week 8) are plus ones, but negative game script (Indianapolis falls behind a lot and has to pass frequently in catch-up mode) will cap his fantasy value most weeks.