A lot of the well-known fantasy studs took a back seat to some of the more unheralded fantasy players during an unusual Week 7. That’s a polite way of saying a lot of the studs stunk it up big time. Are there still must-start wideouts in Green Bay? Is the reigning NFL MVP still lost in the fog? Is Jay Cutler’s backup worth a look? Is the Cameron Brate era over? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson gives his take on those players and a lot more in his latest edition of “Traps & Trends.”
1. Are there still any must-start fantasy wideouts in Green Bay?
The Damage: There are no two ways about it – Brett Hundley’s first career regular-season start in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) was an absolute disaster. With the Packers wisely going run-heavy as much as possible mainly with Aaron Jones against the visiting New Orleans Saints (by the way, their defense is improved), Hundley still connected on just 12 of 25 throws for 87 yards and no touchdowns versus what could have been more than one interception. He also toted the rock three times for 44 yards and one touchdown, but Hundley’s scrambling ability didn’t do much for Nelson and Adams statistically. Neither wideout was targeted in the first half. Nelson finished with one catch for 13 yards on four targets while Adams, who seems to be a favorite target of Hundley’s, made just two grabs for 12 yards on a game-high five targets. Is this the level of production that we should expect from Nelson and Adams going forward?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Hundley and the Packers conveniently have a Week 8 bye to use for extra practice time, and things can only get better for Nelson and Adams going forward. After what we saw from the duo this past Sunday, it can’t get much worse, right? In the meantime, I don’t see an improved Hundley-led Green Bay passing attack (if it improves) operating with enough volume to support three wideouts, so forget about Randall Cobb. Downgrade Nelson and Adams to boom-or-bust fantasy WR4s for now, and hope Hundley improves.
2. The NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year battled the league’s worst pass defense Sunday night. There’s no truth to the rumor that the NFL wants its MVP trophy back.
The Dude: Matt Ryan
The Damage: Coming into Week 7, the New England Patriots defense had surrendered six straight outings of 300-plus yards and at least one touchdown pass to enemy quarterbacks. The Patriots stop unit was so soft that even a struggling Matt Ryan could torch it…oops. So much for Ryan’s get-right matchup. Thanks to some garbage-time production and Julio Jones overpowering a New England defender in the end zone, Ryan amassed just 233 passing yards and the aforementioned touchdown pass by connecting on 23 of 33 throws in yet another disappointing performance. In six starts, Ryan has averaged 265 passing yards per game but has tossed just seven touchdown passes. He also has thrown multiple scoring strikes in just one contest. Is 200-something passing yards and one touchdown pass per game (maybe two once in a while) as good as it gets for Ryan?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Maybe…just maybe…a change at offensive coordinator can turn things around for Ryan and an Atlanta Falcons offense that looks lost in the fog (fog…Sunday night…get it?), but this looks like the new normal statistically for him. New offensive boss Steve Sarkisian has done the unthinkable: he has turned what was an unstoppable offense in 2016 into one that’s now completely dysfunctional. With the ground game stuck in a decline, Ryan isn’t getting the open play-action looks that he got last season, and the Atlanta triggerman’s deep ball has been inaccurate. In addition, his blocking hasn’t been as good. I know some of you Ryan owners are thinking about cutting him, but good luck with that. Unless you own him in a small league, you probably won’t find a better replacement in the free-agent pool.
3. Has the starting tight end torch been passed in Tampa Bay?
The Dude: O.J. Howard
The Damage: Seeing heavy duty as a blocker and light duty as a receiver behind starter Cameron Brate during the first two months of the regular season, Howard threw himself a coming out party this past Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. The rookie 19th overall selection racked up career-highs of six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns on six targets versus a Bills defense that didn’t pay much attention to him. In case you didn’t watch the Buccaneers/Bills game or peruse the box score, Howard caught scoring strikes from seven yards out and from 33 yards out. Has he joined the ranks of trustworthy fantasy starters at the position?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
While Howard has definitely emerged on the streaming radar and is worth a speculative pickup – especially in larger leagues – don’t get your hopes up too high following what probably will go down in the stat sheets as his biggest outing of the season. Brate, who was targeted nine times in the Buffalo game, is still the go-to tight end, particularly in the red zone, in a Buccaneers offense that’s loaded with plenty of receiving talent.
4. Since Jay Cutler will be away, is his backup worth a play?
The Dude: Matt Moore
The Damage: Taking over for the injured Jay Cutler (chest) in the third quarter of the Miami Dolphins/New York Jets contest, Moore engineered a 14-point comeback to lead Miami to a victory. He connected on 13 of 21 throws for 188 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns. In less than two full quarters, Moore passed for more yards than the struggling Cutler had in his previous four full outings. Will Moore keep the starting job for the rest of the season?
The Diagnosis: TOSSUP
If the Dolphins wanted an excuse to pull the plug on Cutler, his injury has provided it. I don’t know if Moore will keep the starting gig long term, but he’s a very capable backup and deserves streaming consideration. In three 2016 fill-in starts, he passed for 236-4-0 versus the New York Jets, 233-2-1 against the Buffalo Bills and 205-2-1 versus the New England Patriots, respectively. I seriously doubt that Cutler will be ready to face the Baltimore Ravens this Thursday night, so Moore will be under center for what isn’t a great matchup on paper. However, Moore, if he holds the job, has nice matchups in Week 9 against the Oakland Raiders and in Week 11 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.