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Traps & Trends – Week 8

Everybody knows the unpredictable four-headed Tennessee Titans backfield is a fantasy dumpster fire to be avoided at all costs, but our Traps & Trends guy Matt Wilson says there’s another committee backfield that’s suddenly become just as murky. He also gives us his take on nine other players that stood out for good reasons or bad ones during the Week 7 games.

 

1. HEY! DIDN’T YOU USED TO BE FANTASY STUD RUSSELL WILSON?

The Damage: Facing a San Francisco 49ers defense that ranked as one of the NFL’s worst against the pass, Russell Wilson threw for only 235 yards and one touchdown against two interceptions. Both picks came on passes that shouldn’t have been thrown, and Wilson left at least one extra touchdown pass on the field. On the season, the dual-threat Seahawks’ triggerman has completed a sparkling 69.6 percent of his throws, but Wilson has averaged just 238.3 passing yards and 1.1 touchdown passes per contest. He also has tossed more than one touchdown pass in just one contest so far and has failed to notch any rushing touchdowns. Is it time to dump Wilson?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

Don’t unload Wilson; stay the course with him. With just the Monday night game to go, Wilson surprisingly ranked as the ninth-best fantasy quarterback in most scoring systems. Wilson currently is on pace to throw for a career high 3,813 yards and 18 touchdown passes, which is two fewer than he tossed last season. In case you’re wondering, Wilson tossed at least two touchdown passes in only eight games in 2014 and tossed at least two touchdown passes in only eight games in 2013, too. As for the rushing numbers, Wilson hasn’t notched any rushing scores (he collected six of them last season), so he’s way overdue. Wilson also is on pace to amass 118 carries and 619 rushing yards, which would be the second-highest total of his career. Seattle’s offensive line has struggled mightily, which has had an impact on Wilson. He has been sacked a league-high 31 times. As the line improves, so will Wilson’s ability to stay in the pocket longer and look downfield for his wideouts. Wilson’s chemistry with Jimmy Graham should improve, and the rushing scores will come.

 
2. IS THIS THE CHARCANDRICK WEST THAT KANSAS CITY HAS BEEN TALKING UP?

The Damage: Following his disastrous first career start in Week 6 (9-33-0 rushing, one fumble lost and 1-6-0 receiving), rookie Charcandrick West rebounded with a rock-solid Week 7 breakout performance against what had been considered an improving Pittsburgh Steelers defense. West amassed 110 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown (he received goal-line carries; it was a one-yard plunge) on 22 totes of the rock. His longest run was 36 yards, and West pounded the ball between the tackles effectively. He also compiled two grabs for 19 yards. West has produced one stink bomb fantasy outing and one great one. Should fantasy owners trust him going forward?

The Diagnosis: TOSSUP

After West absolutely tanked it in Week 6, I had thought the Kansas City Chiefs would go back to the more seasoned Knile Davis. However, as they promised, head coach Andy Reid and company stood behind West as the starter – and he delivered. By the way, Davis carried the ball just one time for two yards. I am, however, still a little skeptical about whether West can operate as an every-week starter with only one terrible road start and one great home outing as his only two career starts. West’s Week 8 matchup is against the Detroit Lions at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The Lions are softer against the run away from Ford Field, so I would start West if I owned him. If he can rack up another solid outing, I’d feel a lot better about West’s chances of contributing consistently over the course of the second half of the season.

 
3. IS IT TIME TO SIT JULIAN EDELMAN?

WR_Julian_Edelman_NEP_1
New England WR Julian Edelman.

The Damage: The New England Patriots top wideout is coming off two straight dud fantasy outings. In Week 5, Edelman amassed a 6-50-1 receiving line on 10 targets versus the Indianapolis Colts and followed that up with a disappointing 5-54-0 receiving line on nine targets this past Sunday. Is it time to panic?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

No! Don’t overreact and bench Tom Brady’s lead wideout and second-favorite target behind Rob Gronkowski. Edelman is just having a stretch of bad luck here. As you probably know, Edelman was playing with a hurt finger against the Colts, which caused him to drop some balls and juggle another one that Indianapolis returned for a score. Edelman didn’t land on the injury report heading into Week 7, so apparently…and I emphasize apparently…the finger wasn’t an issue. This past Sunday, Edelman, according to media reports, struggled after he took a huge hit from defensive back Buster Skrine. The diminutive receiver dropped a pass in the end zone, so he could have racked up a bigger fantasy outing. Edelman is a must-play against a still suspect Miami Dolphins secondary Thursday night.

 
4. IT’S THE BIGGEST FANTASY DUMPSTER FIRE OF A COMMITTEE BACKFIELD EAST OF NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE.

The Damage: Most fantasy owners are well aware of the ridiculously unpredictable and totally unusable Tennessee Titans’ running-back-by-committee set up that includes rotating starters Antonio Andrews, Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey. Oh, yeah, Terrance West has been a healthy scratch since Week 2, and rookie fifth-rounder David Cobb (calf) is eligible to return from the injured reserve/designated-to-return list in Week 9.

We now have a team with a committee backfield that has the same murkiness: the New York Giants. Prior to Week 7, Rashad Jennings (12.1 touches and 56.3 total yards per game with two touchdowns scored) and Shane Vereen (7.8 touches and 53.9 combo yards per game with one touchdown scored) offered middling flex value while Andre Williams (seven carries and 20 rushing yards per game with one touchdown scored) was not a starting option. This past Sunday, the Giants surprised the fantasy football universe by introducing a fourth back, Orleans Darkwa. Making his 2015 debut, the second-year pro led the Giants backfield, amassing eight carries for 48 yards and one touchdown. Darkwa failed to haul in his only target of the game. Will Darkwa be a permanent fixture in the Big Blue committee backfield going forward?

The Diagnosis: TREND

With the possible exception of Darkwa, forget about using anyone in this backfield as a weekly starter. Unless the Giants come out publicly and tell us something different, Darkwa is here to stay, and his emergence isn’t a complete surprise. Jennings had looked like he was emerging as the lead runner, but he has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. While Vereen has averaged a healthy 4.8 yards per carry, he’s the designated pass-catching back. Will Darkwa keep the lead job? While he’s worth a flier pickup, it’s honestly anybody’s guess who will do what going forward in this largely unpredictable committee backfield. Jennings and Vereen are only low-level depth options now, and Williams should remain on the waiver wire.

 
5. HEY MR. MELVIN GORDON – MEET MR. WAIVER WIRE?

The Damage: During his team’s surprising Week 7 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Melvin Gordon spent the first half standing on the sideline (yes, he was benched). The rookie runner saw some action in the second half, toting the rock seven times for 29 yards with no targets in the passing game. Gordon’s benching happened because he had lost fumbles in two straight games. On the season, Gordon has averaged 14 combo touches and 59.1 combo yards per game with no touchdowns. Will this type of production continue to be as good as it gets from Gordon in 2015?

The Diagnosis: TREND

Gordon is a first-round pick, so the team obviously won’t give up on him. There’s always a chance that Gordon will improve his level of play. However, even though Branden Oliver didn’t standout while starting in place of the rookie this past Sunday, I have no reason to expect Gordon to take command of the San Diego Chargers backfield this season. Danny Woodhead is playing well and will continue to command the bulk of the passing-down work. The struggling Chargers offensive line will also continue to drag down Gordon, Oliver and Woodhead. Don’t be afraid to cut Gordon if you see a name that’s more promising in the free-agent pool.

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.