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TRAPS & TRENDS: Week 11

Are we seeing yet another changing of the guard in the Philadelphia Eagles backfield? Are things changing in the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens backfields too? Who’s the true No. 2 wideout in the Steel City? Is it time to send Ty Montgomery packing? FantasySharks.com senior writer answers those questions and talks up a guy named Green who plays for the Black and Gold as he helps us make sense of the Week 10 fantasy aftermath in his latest version of the “Traps & Trends 10.”

 

1. IS DARREN SPROLES STILL THE KING OF THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES BACKFIELD?

The Dudes: Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood

The Damage: Sproles, who had operated as the Philadelphia Eagles’ lead ball carrier during Week 8 (20 touches) and Week 9 (16 touches), surprisingly took a back seat to Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood in Week 10 against an Atlanta Falcons defense that had ranked only 20th in fantasy points allowed to the running back position. Sproles carried just two times for 19 yards and amassed most of his eight receptions for 57 yards in the second half. Mathews, in his last two games, had shown up on the fantasy radar as just a goal-line guy, but he exploded for 19 carries for 109 yards (Mathews’ first 100-yard game of 2016) and two touchdowns, and two receptions for 30 yards. Rookie Wendell Smallwood also saw plenty of action, carrying 13 times for 70 yards. Does the Eagles’ backfield belong to Mathews again like it did at the start of the season?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

I didn’t think I’d be writing about this Philadelphia running back for a third time this season. While Mathews likely will continue to make the ceremonial starts, I still think Sproles is the lead guy in this frustrating timeshare. Mathews’ huge game clearly was the product of a cushy home matchup by an Eagles offense operating a keep-away game plan. By the way, many of Smallwood’s carries came in the second half and he closed out the game, which suggests the team is still jittery about Mathews’ recent ball security problems. If you own Sproles, treat him as a fantasy RB3 in PPR since he should receive the bulk of the touches against tougher run defenses. Mathews should remain the goal-line guy with upside in softer matchups. However, Smallwood remains behind Sproles and Mathews in the pecking order and is worth a look in plus matchups only in deep leagues.

 

2. IS THERE A NEW KING IN THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS BACKFIELD?

The Dudes: C.J. Prosise, Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls

The Damage: Since Christine Michael (hamstring) was less than 100 percent, the rookie Prosise made his first career start against the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. He played a majority of the snaps and touched the ball in all red-zone situations, amassing 66 rushing yards on 17 carries (just 3.9 YPC) and seven receptions for 87 yards. While Prosise’s effort was largely positive, he failed to convert some short-yardage situations. What about Michael? He toted the rock just five times for 22 yards and caught one pass for four yards. Michael, operating as the Seattle Seahawks’ starting tailback in place of the injured Thomas Rawls (leg) since Week 3, started strong but his effectiveness was fading before the hamstring injury. Michael’s shaky play in road contests also has been a concern for Seattle. Did this overall solid start by Prosise earn him the keys to the Seahawks backfield?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

If you’re a Michael owner, it looks like the party is over. I think Seattle is using the fading Michael’s hamstring injury as an excuse to relegate him into a reserve role. Rawls, considered by many to be Marshawn Lynch’s true heir apparent, is tentatively expected to return as early as next week after sitting out since Week 2 due to a leg injury. While Prosise could start the next game or two, Rawls, assuming he’s healthy, should eventually work his way back into the No. 1 tailback duties with Prosise operating as a passing-down guy and handcuff going forward.

 

3. IS THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD HAPPENING IN THE BALTIMORE RAVENS’ BACKFIELD?

The Dudes: Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon

The Damage: West has been struggling since he racked up a nice 23-87-2 rushing line against the New York Giants back in Week 6, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. His Week 7 outing versus the New York Jets (8-10-0; no catches) and Week 8 outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers (15-21-0 rushing; 1-6-0 receiving) were both obviously terrible. This past Thursday night, West toted the rock 21 times for 65 yards and caught one pass for 12 yards against the Cleveland Browns, but more had been expected against such a soft defense. Meanwhile, the rookie Dixon, in that same Browns matchup, flashed some nice playmaking ability, carrying six times for 38 yards and catching five of seven targets for 42 yards. Is Dixon taking over the Ravens’ backfield?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

West out-touched Dixon 22 to 11 in the Cleveland game, so he’s still the lead dog. I don’t think that’s going to change. Even if West continues to struggle, he won’t completely disappear, but Dixon’s role will continue to grown. The rookie runner is now the preferred guy on passing downs, so he deserves flex consideration in PPR leagues going forward. The struggling West should be treated as a touchdown-dependent fantasy RB3/RB4.

 

4. IT LOOKS LIKE NFL COULD STAND FOR “NOT FOR LONG” REGARDING THE ARIZONA CARDINALS’ NEW NO. 2 WIDEOUT

The Dudes: J.J. Nelson and Michael Floyd

The Damage: With Michael Floyd, who is in a contract year, struggling for a good part of the season, the Arizona Cardinals had seemed eager to move on from him and had been talking up speedy deep-threat J.J. Nelson. Back in Week 7, Nelson made three grabs for 84 yards on seven targets against the Seattle Seahawks. In Week 8, Nelson made his first start of the season, racking up eight receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets against a leaky Carolina Panthers secondary. The second-year pro’s Week 10 start versus the lowly San Francisco 49ers, however, went poorly. Nelson made only two grabs for 29 yards on six targets. He also lost a fumble and mishandled another pass that popped into the air and was intercepted. To make matters worse, the guy Nelson replaced, Floyd, racked up five catches for 101 yards on six targets, which was his first 100-yard outing of 2016. There’s nothing like a demotion to get a player fired up. Getting back to Nelson, is it safe to assume that he’s not true fantasy-starter material right now?

The Diagnosis: TREND

Pass the ketchup and the mustard – I’m going to eat some crow on this one. I was wr…wr…wr…wrong about Nelson. I really thought he was breaking out, but it’s hard to overlook a bad game against the 49ers defense. It looks like Floyd has played himself back into the mix, but I’d still treat him as just a fantasy WR3/WR4 in a passing attack that spreads the targets around to wideouts not named Larry Fitzgerald (knee). Since Fitzgerald is banged up, I wouldn’t completely write off Nelson. Consider him a fantasy WR5 for now.

 

5. IT LOOKS LIKE IT’S TIME TO STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE HOSTING SITES THAT WON’T LIST TY MONTGOMERY AS A RUNNING BACK.

The Dude: Ty Montgomery

The Damage: Montgomery, a wideout operating as a tailback in what was an injury-depleted Green Bay Packers backfield, dazzled the fantasy football universe with some great numbers. In Week 6, Montgomery racked up 10 catches for 98 yards and three carries for six yards. He followed that up in Week 7 with 10 receptions for 66 yards and 60 rushing yards on nine carries. However, things have gone downhill since Montgomery sat out Week 8 due to a health issue. He played Week 9 on a snap count (yes, it would have been nice to know that before I started him), compiling just three catches for 38 yards and seven carries for 53 yards. This past Sunday versus the Tennessee Titans, a supposedly healthy Montgomery hauled in just two passes for 11 yards and caught three balls for nine yards while James Starks, who played for the first time since Week 5 after sitting out due to a knee injury, amassed 44 total yards and one receiving score on 10 total touches. With James Starks back in the mix, is this the level of involvement that we can expect from Montgomery?

The Diagnosis: TREND

While I don’t expect Montgomery to disappear – keep in mind the Packers had to scrap their ground attack in the Tennessee game after failing behind early – Starks is the lead dog in the Green Bay backfield now. With all the other mouths to feed in the Packers’ aerial attack, I don’t see much upside for Montgomery there, either. It’s time to park him on your bench. It’s going to take poor performances from Starks or an injury to make Montgomery a fantasy factor again.

About Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson has played NFL fantasy football since 1994 and has been a featured columnist at FantasySharks.com since 2008. His 18 combined years of professional writing experience includes a five-year stint as a contributing writer/editor at KFFL.com. He has been a featured contributor to The Fantasy Football Guide since 2008 and has been published regularly in the award-winning USA Today Sports Fantasy Football preview. Matt is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and holds a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois.