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Fantasy Wasteland

Thursday night the Chargers obliterated the Chiefs 31-13. And yet, even though 44 points were scored, the highest scoring fantasy stud wasn’t even a player, it was the Chargers defense. The Chargers defense, previously ranked as a Top 15 fantasy defense, had two defensive touchdowns, three fumbles, one interception and a sack. Not too shabby.

For the rest of both teams though, there’s room for a lot of concern. We’re talking about a fantasy wasteland here. Before we get to the wasteland, let me give some free passes to a couple of players. For starters, I’m not going to talk much about Matt Cassel because he doesn’t matter. He’s a guy whose on most waiver wires and is a bye week play, if you’re desperate.

I’m also not going to give a hard time to Dwayne Bowe. Bowe was drafted in the 6th round in most drafts either as a low end WR2 or a high end WR3. He’s hovering around the bottom end of the Top 15 receivers, which is good enough considering what his expectations were for the season. He’s on pace to have one of his best seasons, with 37 catches, 488 yards and 3 touchdowns in seven games. If you consider the fact that the Chiefs quarterbacks have been hellaciously awful, he’s actually having a pretty good season.

No, I’m not focusing on Bowe or Cassel but everyone else on the Chargers and Chiefs. Let’s start with the highest profile player, this season, on either team: Jamaal Charles. For years I’ve watched the Chiefs and seen, clearly their best player, just disappear from games. Even though he’s the best player on the team, the guy that ran for 233 yards a month ago, he still somehow doesn’t seem to be the main centerpiece of the offense.

Last week, Charles disappeared again with five rushing attempts for four yards. When Coach Romeo Crennell was asked after the game why Charles was ignored even he didn’t have any answers and he’s the coach! For the last three weeks, including last night, Charles hasn’t topped 40 yards rushing. Part of this is the fact that the Chiefs are always playing from behind but still, as a receiver in catch-up mode, Charles is being underutilized.

And don’t even get me started on Peyton Hillis, one of the biggest fantasy busts of the season. Can you imagine that this guy was on the cover of Madden at some point? Did I dream it all? Was that one Browns season a mirage?

Sticking with the same position but moving on to the other side of the field, Ryan Mathews has been one of this season’s biggest disappointments. Bothered by injuries earlier in the season, he’s seemingly gotten healthy and yet he still hasn’t produced like the RB1 we expected him to be. He has yet to top 100 yards rushing this season and he has more fumbles (2) than he has touchdowns (1).

Mathews is still averaging 4.41 yards per carry, so he’s still effective when given the opportunity. Even last night we saw glimpses of Mathews talent on a 31-yard scamper. It’s a wonder they don’t give him the ball more. If he’s healthy and able, why not give him the keys to the offense? It’s not like Antonio Gates is carrying this offense anymore.

Antonio Gates barely makes the Top 15 for fantasy football tight ends. We’re talking about the 3rd tight end drafted overall. Last night’s 3/43/1 line is a great night for Gates, compared to the rest of his season. That was his second game with a touchdown this season, third TD overall.

Here’s some more depressing Gates stats for you. Gates has only gotten more than three receptions in a game, twice this season. He’s only had two games all season where he’s scored in double-digits for fantasy purposes. After his “stellar” performance against the Chiefs, his owners might want to think about moving him. His name still has a nice currency in fantasy circles and right now might be the best price owners can get for him the rest of the season.

Our last stop in the fantasy wasteland of the Chiefs/Chargers game is Philip Rivers. While he hasn’t been terrible, he also hasn’t even cracked the Top 20 in fantasy quarterbacks, statistically speaking. It’s never a good sign when you have a 12/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His yardage totals have been decent but he’s only passed for over 300 passing yards once. He has had five games where he’s thrown for multiple touchdowns but he’s also thrown eight interceptions in those games as well.

The fact is, there’s a large number of quarterbacks in fantasy football who are having a better season than Rivers. Alex Smith, Brandon Weeden and Ryan Fitzpatrick, to name a few. He’s become a low end QB1, high end QB2. The 2011 Philip Rivers looks more like the norm now than the stud fantasy QB he used to be.

All in all, the future doesn’t look bright for any of these guys in the ‘Fantasy Wasteland’ we witnessed last night. I would expect more of the same despite some of these players having genuine talent.

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti

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