Our Traps & Trends guy Matt Wilson is back to assess the fantasy aftermath of Week 13. Matt perused the NFL box scores and analyzed 10 players that either surprised or disappointed fantasy owners. Among the players on Matt’s radar this week is a very disappointing quarterback/receiver combo from a Florida-based team. Matt is also trying to help us sort out three committee backfields that are driving fantasy owners crazy.
1. SO YOU THOUGHT STARTING RYAN TANNEHILL AND JARVIS LANDRY AGAINST WHAT HAS BEEN A SOFT BALTIMORE RAVENS SECONDARY WAS A GOOD IDEA.
The Damage: The Miami Dolphins won Sunday afternoon, but quite a few fantasy owners who expected big fantasy outings from Tannehill and Landry lost big. The Dolphins triggerman went just 9-of-19 for 86 yards, which were all season lows, and one touchdown. Tannehill’s well-known favorite target, Landry, caught two passes for five yards on a measly five targets, which were all 2015 lows. Has interim Miami head coach Dan Campbell permanently short-circuited the Tannehill-to-Landry connection in favor of a run-heavy attack?
The Diagnosis: TREND
When Campbell fired now-former offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and appointed quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to replace him, Miami’s interim head man had vowed the Dolphins would run the football a lot more, but nobody expected Tannehill to attempt just 19 passes and Landry to catch just two of his 19 throws. While it’s doubtful that either player will log such unusually low single-game numbers during the rest of the season, it looks like Miami’s run-heavy approach is the new normal. If you managed to earn a playoff spot with either Tannehill or Landry on your team (or both), it’s obvious that both players are risky plays going forward, which is a shame. The Dolphins’ fantasy playoff schedule – the New York Giants (Week 14), at the San Diego Chargers (Week 15) and the Indianapolis Colts (Week 16) – has some great matchups for Tannehill and Landry on paper. Unfortunately, the forward pass is on the endangered species list in south Florida.
2. SO IS THE NEW CHARCANRICK WEST/SPENCER WARE TIMESHARE HERE TO STAY?
The Damage: West owners had to reach for the Pepto Bismol when Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson announced their plans to use him and Ware in a committee going forward. How did it go? During Kansas City’s win over the Oakland Raiders, West got the start and the split in touches between the two was just about right down the middle. West amassed 45 combo yards on 11 combo touches with no scores, while Ware compiled 25 combo yards on nine combo touches and notched a rushing score. As many predicted, Ware received the goal-line touches. He scored on a 10-yard run and was stuffed on another goal-line series. Will the Chiefs continue to use West and Ware in a committee for the rest of 2015?
The Diagnosis: TOSSUP
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid usually has leaned on one featured runner, which is why I’m a bit skeptical about the shelf life of the West/Ware committee. The Chiefs could surprise us by giving heavy workloads to West once again, but we have to take them at their word about the split backfield – at least for now. If you own either West or Ware, don’t get bummed out about the timeshare, because I think both players will have standalone value in the fantasy playoffs with great matchups against the San Diego Chargers (Week 14) and the Cleveland Browns (Week 16) visiting Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City will battle the Baltimore Ravens on the road (Week 15) in a tougher matchup.
3. SO IS THE NEW MATT FORTE/JEREMY LANGFORD TIMESHARE HERE TO STAY?
The Damage: During the Chicago Bears’ Week 12 (Thanksgiving Day) win over the Green Bay Packers, we saw a very close split in the backfield touches between Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford, with Forte out-touching the rookie back by a count of 16 to 13. However, this past Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Forte took over as the workhorse runner in the Chicago offense again while he was sitting on quite a few fantasy benches, out-touching Langford by a count of 26 to 14. By the way, Langford lost some backup work to Ka’Deem Carey, who toted the rock five times for 17 yards and scored on a four-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Getting back to Forte, does he own the Chicago backfield again?
The Diagnosis: TREND
If your fantasy team advanced to the playoffs without Forte in the lineup, it’s safe to start him again. Langford clearly has more burst than Forte, but Chicago’s coaching staff clearly trusts the soon-to-be 30-year-old tailback more than the rookie. Even though rumors are flying that Chicago won’t re-sign Forte when his deal runs out at the end of 2015, the Bears seem comfortable giving him all the touches that he can handle. During the San Francisco game, Langford didn’t help himself out with a couple of dropped passes and a few blown blitz pickups. While Langford should receive enough touches to have flex value in larger leagues, Carey’s unexpected involvement is cause for concern.
4. IS DARREN SPROLES THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES RUNNING BACK TO OWN RIGHT NOW?
The Damage: To the surprise of quite a few fantasy owners, the Philadelphia Eagles quietly demoted a sluggish DeMarco Murray during their Week 13 clash with the New England Patriots, opting to use Darren Sproles as their main ball carrier. Sproles led the team with a 15-66-0 rushing line and also compiled a 4-34-0 receiving line while Murray finished the day with an 8-24-0 rushing line with no catches. This was only the third time that Sproles had received double-digit carries in a game since he joined the Eagles in 2014. Does the Philadelphia backfield now belong to Sproles?
The Diagnosis: TOSSUP
If Sproles is available and you have an available roster spot, he’s worth a flier. However, I honestly don’t know how this situation will shake out. Will the Eagles give Murray another chance? Can the smallish Sproles hold up under continued heavy workloads? Will Ryan Mathews (concussion, groin), who hasn’t played since Week 10, take over as the starter when he returns? Mathews is a better fit in the offense than Murray. Bottom line – Sproles’ weekly usage going forwards is very tough to predict. His next two matchups against the Buffalo Bills (Week 14) and the Arizona Cardinals (Week 15) aren’t that promising.
5. HAS DOUG BALDWIN JOINED THE RANKS OF MUST-START FANTASY WIDEOUTS?
The Damage: Back in Week 10, Baldwin compiled a 7-134-1 receiving line on 10 targets against the Arizona Cardinals, which didn’t grab the attention of fantasy owners, because he would cobble together a big fantasy outing once in a great while. Baldwin followed up that performance with a 6-60-0 receiving line on six targets versus the San Francisco 49ers, so his big game against Arizona looked like one of his typical fluky outings. However, Baldwin erupted in Week 13 with a 6-145-3 receiving line on eight targets versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and then followed that up with a 5-94-2 receiving line on seven targets against the Minnesota Vikings. Baldwin has burned fantasy owners with his streakiness in past years, but is it time to recognize him as a must-start player?
The Diagnosis: TREND
This isn’t the streaky Baldwin from past years. It’s time to treat him as a must-start fantasy WR2 as he’s been Seattle’s most-targeted receiver two weeks in a row in an offense with a hot quarterback, Russell Wilson, who has taken charge of the Seahawks offense with Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham on the shelf. Baldwin’s next two matchups – at the Baltimore Ravens (Week 14) and versus the Cleveland Browns (Week 15) are very favorable. He and the Seahawks will host the St. Louis Rams in Week 16, but the Rams defense has been struggling and isn’t very scary right now.