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Traps & Trends – Week 13

Our Traps & Trends guy Matt Wilson combed through the NFL box scores and analyzed 10 players that either surprised or disappointed fantasy owners in Week 12. Who is on Matt’s radar this week? By the way, if you Rob Gronkowski owners are worried about not being able to land Scott Chandler in waivers, Matt has another tight end streaming option that you may have overlooked.

1. IS IT TIME TO THROW IN THE TOWEL ON DEMARYIUS THOMAS?

The Damage: It’s been a rough ride for Thomas owners since Brock Osweiler was handed the keys to the Denver Broncos offense in Week 10. During a road victory over the Chicago Bears, Thomas compiled a soft-but-respectable 3-59-1 line on 12 targets. In case you missed Sunday Night Football, Thomas frustrated his owners with an awful 1-36-0 line on 13 targets during his team’s overtime triumph over the New England Patriots. By the way, that lone reception didn’t come until Denver’s final drive in the fourth quarter. As long as Osweiler remains the starter, should you bite the bullet and bench Thomas?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

Thomas will bounce back, and it will happen in Week 13 against a soft San Diego Chargers secondary. Forget about his performance against the Patriots. Their defense specializes in containing one weapon on an opposing offense, and Thomas clearly was the guy. Osweiler still threw his way 13 times. Thomas’ next three matchups – at the Chargers, the Oakland Raiders and at the Pittsburgh Steelers – are all favorable.

2. WILL THE REAL PHILIP RIVERS PLEASE STAND UP?

The Damage: During a humiliating Week 11 home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Rivers passed for only 178 yards with no touchdowns against three interceptions. Likely sitting on a ton of fantasy benches this past weekend, Rivers torched the Jacksonville Jaguars for 300 yards and four scoring strikes in sunny Jacksonville. Are Philips and the Chargers passing attack back on track?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

If you sat Rivers following his Week 11 meltdown against Kansas City, I don’t blame you. His huge rebound outing against a ridiculously leaky Jacksonville secondary was a surprise because of all the injuries in the San Diego receiver corps. If your kneejerk reaction is to want to start Rivers next week, you need to think twice about that. Rivers should be treated as a matchup-play fantasy QB2 for the rest of 2015. His next two matchups against Denver and at the Kansas City Chiefs are obviously toughies. I still think the Chiefs have a very good defense. They simply had a letdown against the Buffalo Bills following two tough AFC West contests. However, Rivers looks like a nice start against the Miami Dolphins (Week 15) and the Oakland Raiders (Week 16).

3. IS IT TIME TO THROW IN THE TOWEL ON DEMARCO MURRAY?

The Damage: Murray’s production has been slipping. In Week 11, he compiled a 13-64-0 rushing line and a 4-27-0 receiving line during an embarrassing home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The fifth-year pro followed that up with a very disappointing 14-30-0 rushing line Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions (he wasn’t targeted in the passing game). Will Murray rebound or is this a sign of things to come for the rest of 2015?

The Diagnosis: TREND

Things are falling apart with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Murray is part of it. Following two blowout losses, it looks like the team has quit on head coach Chip Kelly, and it looks like Murray has quit on the season. Granted, Kelly’s stupid insistence on running Murray east-west when he’s at his best as a north-south runner is a problem. Two games in a row, it hasn’t looked like Murray is running as hard as he could, and the tailback has frequently dropped to the ground rather than run into defenders. Since the Eagles also don’t seem interested in using Murray in their passing attack, his production will continue to fall victim to game flow. When Philadelphia falls behind, Murray will lose touches. If you’re trying to make a playoff run, do it without Murray in your starting lineup.

4. IS DREW BREES STILL A FANTASY QB1?

The Damage: Brees’ production has been slipping. After torching the New York Giants for 505-7-2 (Week 8) and shredding the Tennessee Titans for 387-3-1 (Week 9), the Saints’ triggerman has disappointed. Brees managed just 209-2-2 versus a porous Washington secondary (Week 10). This past Sunday, he compiled a season-worst 228-0-1 line against a surging Houston Texans defense. Brees struggled with his accuracy while trying to sling the rock to an undermanned group of receivers that had difficulty getting open consistently. Willie Snead, in particular, continues to struggle in road contests. Is it time to demote Brees to the ranks of the matchup-play fantasy QB2s? Should we expect more inconsistent weekly performances?

The Diagnosis: TREND

I’d say yes. In recent weeks, Brees has racked up his best numbers in soft home matchups and struggled in road contests regardless of how favorable or unfavorable the matchup. His Week 13 home matchup against the super stingy Carolina Panthers defense is obviously a toughie on paper. Brees will face a soft Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary on the road in Week 14, but the Buccaneers have had his number lately. Brees’ last two passing lines against Tampa Bay are 281-1-3 and 255-1-1. In Week 15, he’ll face an improving Detroit Lions secondary at home, which looks like a tougher than average matchup. However, in Week 16, Brees will face the leaky secondary of the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Super Dome, which looks like a nice start.

5. IS IT SAFE TO START RUSSELL WILSON REGULARLY FOR THE REST OF 2015?

The Damage: As any Wilson fantasy owner will tell you, from Week 1 through Week 10, he was painfully mediocre and wasn’t a difference maker in starting lineups. During that time frame, Wilson averaged 235.3 passing yards per game and tossed more than one touchdown pass in just one contest. In Week 11, Wilson threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns…against the San Francisco 49ers, which is why most fantasy owners didn’t give the effort any serious thought. This past Sunday, however, Wilson lit up the Pittsburgh Steelers with 345 passing yards and a career-high five touchdown passes. While the odds are obviously against Wilson tossing five scoring strikes in a game again, can we expect more multi-touchdown games from Wilson going forward?

The Diagnosis: TREND

The Seahawks offense is going to live and die with Wilson’s right arm for the rest of the season because of a struggling defense (hint: high-scoring shootouts) and the loss of Marshawn Lynch. Seattle’s defense isn’t its usual big bad scary self. This unit just allowed 30 points to the Pittsburgh Steelers and yielded a 456-1-2 passing line to Ben Roethlisberger. While Thomas Rawls is a good solid back, he’s not as dominant as Lynch, which means more of the burden of carrying the Seahawks offense will fall on Wilson. His next road matchup against the Minnesota Vikings is a bit challenging on paper, but Wilson is red hot right now and deserves a start. The Seattle triggerman’s Week 14 road matchup versus the Baltimore Ravens looks great on paper, but, if the Ravens offense doesn’t put up a fight, Wilson may not have to do much for his team to win that game. The same thing applies to his Week 15 home matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

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.