Trending into Week 7
October 17, 2012 | Neil Parker
The first few weeks in the NFL season are unpredictable at best, and most fantasy owners either tread water or make hasty decisions. Most are guilty of both to a certain extent. The road was paved with gold to Canton for Kevin Ogletree after his Week 1 performance, whereas those who gave up on Shonn Greene and sat him Sunday missed out on some serious fantasy football production. At this point in the season it is time to look at trends that are starting to develop, and obviously, Ogletree and Greene serve as examples that there is potential for a breakout at almost any time, but consistency from Sunday to Sunday is what brings home the victories. Here are some players who are trending in the right and wrong directions over the past number of weeks.
Andy Dalton: One trend that is certain to continue with Dalton is that he is going to throw the football a lot, and he is also throwing to the NFL’s best fantasy receiver. Through 6 games, Dalton has thrown for over 300 yards 3 times, and has also connected for 3 TDs in a game 3 times. In the Bengals past two games, Dalton has tossed it up over 40 times, and with Green-Ellis’ inability to be a game breaker the Bengals will continue to attack through the air first and foremost. Dalton has been a top 10 fantasy option at QB thus far, and there is a good chance that he remains a fringe fantasy starting option at QB throughout the season. The Bengals aren’t stopping anyone on defense, so Dalton isn’t going to stop throwing the ball, and A.J. Green is proving to be as good a receiver as there is.
Matt Schaub: The Texans QB has completed exactly 20 passes 3 times this season, but only once has he completed more. Schaub has yet to throw for more than 300 yards, and if you take out the 4 TD game against Denver, he only has 4 TD passes in his other 5 contests. This isn’t the same Texans team that Schaub stood behind center for when he was tossing for 4000 yards a season. The Texans are relying on a strong defense and one of the league’s best rushing attacks, which means Schaub is not the offensive catalyst he once was. With the Texans sitting at 5-1, their offensive approach is working, so to expect anything other than Schaub continuing to manage the offense by handing it off to his backs would be unwise. Schaub will have a few more weeks where he’ll be worthy of a start in fantasy, but don’t expect him to start throwing up consecutive 30 completion games anytime soon.
One Up: Tony Romo can only go up from here, with the running game’s feature weapon wounded, and the Cowboys sitting on a losing record, Romo will have to start throwing the football.
One Down: Alex Smith has three divisional games, the Bears and a bye in the next 5 weeks, and it doesn’t look overly promising after that either.
Alfred Morris: The rookie has been a force all season, with his worst performance coming in his second game, where he rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries, otherwise he has been fantasy gold. Morris tied his season low on rushing attempts Sunday with 16, but he crossed the line for a score, and really didn’t have much of an opportunity to be involved because the Vikings couldn’t stop Griffin III to begin with. Morris’ touches are not in danger, and he is averaging just under 20 carries a game, to the tune of 5 TDs, and 4.6 yards a carry. With Griffin III keeping defenses honest, his connection with Morris in the option and the lack receiving threats, Morris is going to continue to be a large part of the Redskins attack. The Redskins have defensive issues, so their offense will have to score to stay competitive, and Morris’ ability to break tackles and pound the ball at the goal-line keeps him a fantasy must-start.
Ahmad Bradshaw: The Giants’ back has put together two nice games in a row after injuries hampered him for a few weeks. The formula looks simple, give Bradshaw 25+ carries and he’ll score and rack up the yards, but can he maintain that pace for the rest of the season? Now concussed Andre Brown had success too when he was given the opportunity, so it seems whoever is getting the carries will be productive for the Giants, as defenses have to respect Eli’s passing attack. Rookie David Wilson has shown his explosiveness, and game changing ability, so the Giants backfield looks to be in great shape heading forward. The only concern is Bradshaw’s injury history, and if, or how the carries are going to be split up. If Wilson can spell Bradshaw enough to keep him relatively fresh and more importantly help keep him healthy, it will be good news for Bradshaw shareholders.
Steven Jackson: Saw his carries dwindle to a near 50/50 split with rookie Darryl Richardson this past Sunday, and without a trip to pay dirt or a 100 yard rushing game on the season this trend could continue. Jackson is averaging just 3.6 yards a carry, compared to Richardson’s 5.2 and with Jackson likely done in St. Louis after the season, look for Fisher to see what he has in Richardson. Obviously it is not time to bail on Jackson, but he has never been a reliable source for touchdowns, and if he continues to lose carries to Richardson there is less and less to like going forward. Richardson has broken a few big runs this season, showing off his big play potential, whereas Jackson has only topped 60 yards rushing in one game all season. St. Louis is far from an offensive juggernaut, so even if Jackson was getting all the carries he would be a fringe starter.
LeGarrette Blount: Has scored touchdowns in his last 2 games, but this isn’t the 2nd half of 2010 and with only 20 carries on the season Blount is a bye week fill in at best. He may have cemented the short yardage and goal-line duties going forward, but rookie Doug Martin will see the majority of carries and opportunities out of the Buccaneers’ backfield. Blount may carve out a small niche and provide some weekly fantasy production in the deepest of leagues based on his role in the offense, but you’ll have to count on him scoring each week. He picked up all his production on Sunday in garbage time duty, with only a carry a quarter before his TD run series with 4 and a half minutes left in the game. Blount’s value lies predominantly in replacing Doug Martin if he were ever injured.
One Up: Darren McFadden will look to build on his touchdown run this past Sunday as the rest of his schedule looks incredibly favorable. It is time to buy low if possible.
One Down: Marshawn Lynch only faces one favorable defense against the rush in the next 7 weeks, and finishes the fantasy season against San Francisco. Tough to bail ship, but it might be the opportune time to sell high.
Sidney Rice: The game winning catch on Sunday cannot go without mention, but the Gamecocks alum has been gaining momentum for the past 3 weeks. Rice has been the man before, just look at his 2009 stats, and Russell Wilson needs someone to throw to when it matters. Sunday’s catch should prove to be just one more reason for Wilson to look Rice’s way, both when it counts and a little more often. The Seahawks don’t throw the ball a lot, but Rice is seeing his targets and as the chemistry continues to develop with Wilson his production should also continue to increase. It is unlikely that Rice surges into fantasy stardom, but he should prove to be a solid bottom tier starter most weeks over the remainder of the season. It is worth noting that his value isn’t as high in PPR formats though.
Dez Bryant: The single most important trending statistic for the Cowboys disgruntled wide out is the game by game increase in his targets. Bryant was targeted 15 times on Sunday, and hauled in 13 receptions for 95 yards and 2 scores. Jason Garrett take note, and Tony Romo don’t forget that the ball needs to go Dez’s way. He is an ideal target in the endzone, while being equally adapt as a deep threat and possession receiver, who is capable of making defenders miss, in addition to running them right over. Why Bryant has seemingly been eased into the Cowboys offensive is unknown, but from here on if he doesn’t see double digit targets there is a problem. With Miles Austin and Jason Witten in the fold defenses wont be able to focus solely on Bryant either. If he had caught the 2 point conversion pass he would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.
Steve Smith: Was a top 10 receiver in 2011, after he finished last season with nearly 1400 yards, 79 receptions and 7 TDs. So far this season the undersized spark-plug is hardly sporting numbers worthy of a starting roster slot. Smith has yet to find the end zone, despite remaining Cam Newton’s first option in the passing game. Smith has under 5 catches in his past 4 games, as defenders are focusing in on the 12 year veteran and the Panthers as a team aren’t scoring through the air either, with only 4 TD receptions on the season. Smith is only a few big games away from returning to fantasy relevance, but unless Carolina shows improvement off of their bye week it could be more of the same for Smith. Smith was drafted as a go to fantasy player, but he might finish outside of the top 25 fantasy receivers.
Antonio Brown: It is clear that the Steelers wide receiver is going to get his hands on the football a lot, but scoring touchdowns may always prove to be tough for Brown. Brown is featured heavily in the Pittsburgh passing attack and could approach 100 receptions on the season. However, with only 3 career TDs and other proven red zone targets, Roethlisberger might just continue to lean on Brown as more of a possession receiver. Mike Wallace and Heath Miller each have 4 scores on the season, whereas Brown has more yards and catches than both of them. Obviously Brown has more value in a PPR format, but unless he can start to string together a few 100 yard games he just might fail to live up to the hype projected his way heading into the season. As it stands Brown hasn’t topped 100 yards in a game, or caught a pass for over 30 yard, but he is still a strong PPR starter each week.
One Up: Jeremy Maclin got back on track this week, and after a hip injury hurt his production the previous few weeks he looks healthy going forward. Look for an improved Eagles offense coming out of their bye week, and they’ll need it when you look at their schedule.
One Down: Andre Roberts has seen his production fall in two straight weeks, despite getting the second most targets in the Cardinals offense. Speaking of the Cardinals offense; it is banged up with injuries, so it could be tough starting anyone not named Fitzgerald.