Is Mark Sanchez the savior for the struggling Philadelphia Eagles offense? Is Lamar Miller’s workload in jeopardy? Could Jay Cutler help your fantasy team during the stretch run? Matt Wilson tackles those questions in his latest edition of Traps & Trends.
1. IS MARK SANCHEZ THE SAVIOR FOR THE STRUGGLING PHILADELPHIA EAGLES OFFENSE?
The Damage: As you probably know, Sam Bradford (shoulder, concussion) was knocked out of the Eagles/Dolphins game and, to short-lived delight of some Philadelphia fans, Mark Sanchez took over. Even though Sanchez clearly has a strong command of the scheme and the numbers from the Miami game look okay (14-of-23 for 156 passing yards with no touchdowns and one pick) he failed to impress. Sanchez tossed a crushing interception in the end zone and seemed more comfortable with dump-off throws to DeMarco Murray rather than pushing the ball down the field. In nine games played last season, Sanchez averaged 268.7 passing yards and 1.5 touchdown passes per game with four 300-yard efforts. He also scored multiple total-touchdowns in seven of those contests. Since Bradford is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks, is Sanchez worth a pickup?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
While he’s a modest upgrade over Bradford and Philadelphia’s schedule looks soft going forward, I don’t think Sanchez will duplicate his solid statistics from 2014. He looks like a matchup-play fantasy QB2 at best. The Eagles offensive line remains shaky in pass protection, and the offense has been operating with a run-first mindset, featuring DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews whenever possible. In addition, the loss of Jeremy Maclin (Chiefs) has hurt the passing attack more than expected. Jordan Matthews is talented, but he seems miscast as a true No. 1 wideout. Highly touted rookie Nelson Agholor has struggled, and the team stubbornly refuses to feature Zach Ertz. The other pass-catchers are mediocre complementary guys.
2. SO DOES THIS MEAN THE CHICAGO BEARS WON’T DRAFT A QUARTERBACK IN 2016?
The Damage: The often-criticized Jay Cutler is riding a hot streak and quietly enjoying an efficiently productive season. During his last four starts, Cutler averaged 291.8 passing yards and 1.8 touchdown passes per game with just two interceptions thrown. On the season, Cutler is on pace to throw for 4,090 yards and 26 touchdowns. Here’s the part that will make even Cutler’s biggest critics take notice: the turnover-prone passer is on pace to toss just 10 interceptions.
The Diagnosis: TREND
Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase was widely considered to be Peyton Manning’s caddy during their time together with the Denver Broncos (2012-2014), but that isn’t a fair assessment of Gase’s coaching abilities. He has worked miracles with Cutler. If your team needs quarterback help, check the free-agent pool for Cutler. His Week 11 matchup against the Denver Broncos isn’t the greatest, but there aren’t any truly scary games for him on the rest of Chicago’s schedule. Cutler will face the Green Bay Packers (Week 12), the San Francisco 49ers (Week 13), Washington (Week 14), the Minnesota Vikings (Week 15 – okay that one is a bit challenging) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 16).
3. IS THIS AS GOOD AS IT GETS FOR RANDALL COBB IN 2015?
The Damage: Since Week 4, Green Bay Packers designated No. 1 wideout Randall Cobb has scored just once and has amassed more than 55 receiving yards in just one game. He did both in Week 9 (4-99-1). With the lowly Detroit Lions visiting Lambeau Field, many had expected the matchup to be a get-well game for the struggling Cobb and a sputtering Packers passing attack. The result? Cobb amassed a 5-53-0 line on 10 targets during Green Bay’s shocking loss to the Lions. Is it time to write-off Cobb for 2015?
The Diagnosis: TREND
NFL fans need to apply the word lowly to the Packers. As for Cobb…while he’ll rack up an occasional good game here and there, I don’t see any reason to expect a huge rebound in his production. Opposing defenses have figured out how to contain the Jordy Nelson-less Green Bay passing attack. Cobb is a talented wideout. The fifth-year pro, however, is miscast as a No. 1 receiver, and opposing defenses are focusing on him like a laser. Davante Adams and James Jones aren’t good enough to scare anybody, and both players have been having trouble getting separation. Cobb is worth keeping as a fantasy WR3, and so is Adams, who, by the way, has out-produced Cobb two weeks in a row. Jones started the season strong but has faded in recent weeks (just 3-59-0 in his last three games). Feel free to drop Jones if you see a better option in your free agent pool.
4. WILL LAMAR MILLER START LOSING A LARGE NUMBER OF TOUCHES TO JAY AJAYI?
The Damage: Playing in just his second game of 2015, Jay Ajayi was out-touched 22 to six by Lamar Miller. However, the rookie flashed some impressive explosiveness and power, out-gaining Miller 48 yards to 43 yards on the ground. Will Miller start losing more touches to Ajayi going forward?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Barring a case of the fumbles, Ajayi, thanks to the exit of Jonas Gray, likely will keep his role as an eight-to-10 touch change-of-pace back. I am, however, concerned that Miami will start giving goal-line work to the 6-foot, 228-pound Ajayi, because runs with “Beast Mode” power. Miller, who is one of the NFL’s few three-down workhorse tailbacks, should hold most of his value for the rest of the season, but all bets are off for 2016.
5. THE NEW YORK GIANTS’ REAL NO. 2 WIDEOUT IS…
The Damage: With Rueben Randle slowed by a bum hammy and Victor Cruz still trying to recover from a calf injury, fill-in slot guy Dwayne Harris has started to emerge. The fifth-year pro has scored three times in his last three outings. Is Harris worth a pickup?
The Diagnosis: TOSSUP
I’m on the fence with this one and need to see more. I don’t think Cruz will be a factor this year, and Randle seems to be losing Eli Manning’s trust. Sandwiched in between Harris’ surprisingly great Week 8 outing (3-37-2 on seven targets) and his season-best Week 10 effort (6-82-1 on nine targets) is a disappointing Week 9 line (1-1-0 on three targets) versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which bugs me. I would consider Harris a low-end fantasy WR4 with upside, but definitely don’t treat him as a savior for your team.