Welcome to Toad’s Fantasy Football Weekly Review, where I summarize the aftermath of the past Thursday through Sunday games, but more importantly ten thoughts and their lasting fantasy impact.
1. In today and gone tomorrow – The biggest injuries of Week 12
• The first injury of the week was probably the biggest when Matthew Stafford hurt his ankle in a Thanksgiving loss to the Vikings. He’ll have a few extra days rest but he has a tough matchup with the Ravens. Given the Lions want to stay in the playoff hunt, Stafford could realistically make the start but it’s definitely a situation to monitor. Jake Rudock would make the start if he can’t go and that’s a tough week to make one’s first NFL start. The Lions are doing shaman’s dances in hopes of Stafford’s ankle healing in time.
• Broncos QB Paxton Lynch suffered a high-ankle sprain in the second half of the Broncos’ seventh-straight loss. It’s more than likely he’ll be shut down for the rest of the season and Trevor Siemian is back in the starting role moving forward.
• Niners QB C.J. Beathard suffered a left knee bruise and a strained hip. While neither injury is career or even season-threatening, this provides a neat and clean reason to see what Jimmy Garoppolo can do. In his one drive at the end of the game, Jimmy G drove the Niners for a touchdown at the end of regulation.
• The Raiders’ receivers were dealt a big blow after Michael Crabtree was suspended for his punchy ways with Aqib Talib. Then Amari Cooper took a blow to the head and suffered a concussion and an ankle injury. Crabtree is out for week thirteen and Cooper could be out too leaving Cordarrelle Patterson and Seth Roberts to reap the rewards.
• After being unable to play for several weeks, Panthers TE Greg Olsen returned to the field only to re-aggravate his surgically repaired foot early in the game. He missed the rest of the game as in questionable status for week thirteen. Look for Ed Dickson to return to relevance.
• Steelers’ wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster continues to deal with a sore hamstring and Martavis Bryant steps back into the No. 2 receiver spot. The Steelers are hoping they can get Smith-Schuster back, but with the bad hammy could linger on until week fourteen or fifteen given the way it’s been tracking.
• Dolphins RB Damien Williams injured his shoulder and could miss multiple weeks, cementing Kenyon Drake’s hold on the committee. Williams will be unavailable at least for one week.
• Chargers rookie WR Mike Williams has been slowly peppered into the offense over the last six weeks but was carted off in week twelve with a bone bruise to his knee. It was originally thought to be a torn-ACL but was downgraded to a bruise and is day-to-day moving forward.
• Bucs’ RB Doug Martin suffered what is believed to be a concussion and is in protocol. Jacques Rodgers is on deck should the week play out without Martin in the game plan. In similar fill-in situations, Rodgers has been a productive, high-volume RB2 back in relief duty.
2. The growing problem of owning Kareem Hunt
Well, based on the way the Buffalo Bills were defending the run over the last month, nearly everyone thought that hunt would finally break his scoring drought, especially me. But he didn’t and that illuminates a bunch of problems. I put a large portion of the blame on the Chiefs’ offensive playcalling because there’s not much imagination going on in using Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, because they’re all struggling. Hunt is hitting the rookie wall but I am not about the say he’s not as good as originally hyped. Is Alex Smith really the problem? After starting 5-0, they are 1-5 since and all of a sudden cannot beat a cover 2 defense, because they can’t run the ball. It’s adjustments and for fantasy owners, it is too deep into the season, with very little out there to replace, from a caliber standpoint, Hunt, or any of his teammates. They could break off at any point and return to early season form, they’re that good, but they are also very difficult to trust right now, especially in the last playoff push.
3. Football is alive and well in La La Land – Part 1
With the Chiefs struggling, that has opened the door in the AFC West for teams like the Oakland Raiders and yes, the Los Angeles Chargers who are slowly hearing more of their fans cheer at their little soccer stadium. However, their defense is for real as Joey Bosa and Casey Hayward have led the way, and the offense is managing to get by with Philip Rivers finally targeting Hunter Henry. Keenan Allen is finally getting favorable matchups and if they can just get Melvin Gordon back to early season form, and fix the kicking game, then Los Angeles has a manageable schedule the rest of the way. Just know that they haven’t played many teams with a winning record. And if you are a Gordon owner, as a reminder, it’s not too late to get some insurance and pick up Austin Ekeler
4. Football is alive and well in La La Land – Part 2
Could Los Angeles see both of their football teams reach the playoffs? Well, the one in the driver’s seat is actually the Rams who continue to find ways to put points on the board despite taking some hits to their skills position. Without Robert Woods, and let’s be honest, without Marshon Lattimore guarding Sammy Watkins, the Saints defense looked vulnerable and this stresses something I’ve said over the course of the season. When the Rams face at least one shutdown-caliber corner, you can plan on Watkins having a bad day. That’s why Woods was so valuable because rarely does a team have two elite cornerbacks. When they don’t face a shutdown corner, Watkins and Jared Goff are most assured a good day. When they don’t face a shutdown corner and are down Woods, then Cooper Kupp gets in on the act. The newcomer in the starting lineup is Josh Reynolds, who is going to hold the fort at the y-spot until Woods is healthy. From a target standpoint, the tight ends have not seen an increased involvement outside of an average of five total, and second-year player Tyler Higbee is still the preferred pass-catching option over Gerald Everett.
5. Latavius Murray is starting to gain distance on Jerick McKinnon
Since Dalvin Cook’s season-ending injury, the running back committee of Murray and McKinnon was split down the middle and for the most part, McKinnon is getting enough touches that you need to respect him as a flex. But in the last three games, Murray has gotten significant touches, with four rushing scores. He’s entered the RB1/RB2 conversation if he can keep this pace an average-to-above-average schedule of run defenses. The games to note will be these next two games that should favor McKinnon’s style of play. We’ll see if the Vikings’s distribution of carries is purely based on skill set, or Murray is truly running away with the starting role.
6. Start the Ravens, Nevermore
In what should have been a dream matchup for Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace was a big thunderous dud. Maclin was targeted just five times, Wallace a whopping 11 times, and the return on all of those 16 combined looks? Six catches, 54 yards receiving and no touchdowns. That accounts for just 33 percent of the Ravens’ abysmal passing game which only produced 163 total yards against a defense that had been allowing an average of 343.0 passing yards over their last four games. Baltimore, do you still think Flacco is worthy of that monster contract? Ironically, the one thing that the Texans have maintained all season long, was their run defense. Headed into the Monday Night Football Game, the Texans allowed just one touchdown (Leonard Fournette) to a running back and of course, both Alex Collins and Buck Allen rushed for a touchdown each. Collins has been only good against favorable matchups, this is the first week he’s had his usual “good game” against a tough opponent.
7. Marcus Mariota owners are starting to grip
And they should. Mariota has one of the best fantasy playoff schedules with the Texans, Cardinals, and Niners before ending the season in two tough matchups against the Rams and Jaguars. Unfortunately, Mariota is playing some of his worst football in his young career. He’s thrown just one touchdown in three straight games and one rushing touchdown over the last six contests. He’s thrown multiple touchdowns just twice this season and has barely crossed the 300-yard barrier twice. It’s made him difficult to trust and this is right in the heart of what is the sweet spot of his schedule. Owners may have to explore other options like Tyrod Taylor or Brett Hundley. Owners are justified in dropping him or at least shifting him to their backup because he hasn’t been worth starting in some time. Last year, Mariota was a matchup play, but we can’t even say that about him this season. Still, that schedule will make it tough to bench him, but he’s a risky play and has been for most of the season.
8. There’s still time for Brett Hundley to change our minds
The Packers are in a dogfight to make the playoffs and they’ll need Hundley to pull off some victories over the next two games. That wasn’t possible heading into week twelve, but Hundley had his best game of the season, 245/3 TD/0 INT including a 9.42 average yards per pass attempt. So who’s up next for Green Bay? The Buccaneers followed by the Browns – two matchups that have been destroyed in recent weeks. Handley has proven why Mike McCarthy didn’t want to bring in another quarterback, but the question is, did he come around too late? If Hundley can win these two games, Aaron Rodgers could make his return in week fifteen in hopes of winning out. So while there’s risk involved, Hundley does have a favorable two-week run and is starting to get a feel for the offense. It’s definitely not an ideal situation but if you’re in a desperate situation and with few options available, meaning that you have some terrible options otherwise, Hundley has this window that could help make or break your season.
9. Blaine Gabbert likes his tight ends
The Cardinals are notorious for leaving out their tight ends in the offensive game plan. They’ve literally made them expendable. But maybe that’s more of a Carson Palmer thing because Blaine Gabbert has connected with Ricky Seals-Jones, a name we were all introduced two weeks ago, when it was a fluke. Now that it’s happened two straight weeks, we must take notice. Just notice that Seals-Jones only had a few snaps (seven) in week eleven and now 17 in week twelve. But every time he’s in there, the plays are being called his way. He has three touchdowns off seven receptions out of 11 targets in a total of 24 snaps. That’s efficient production. Since Gabbert only has two starts under his belt, it’s too early to say if this is a long lasting trend, but ride it out, especially in the sad landscape of the tight end. We often see this when we see a third string or backup quarterback make a sudden start. He will look for plays for the players he practices with. For now, this could be a big development moving forward but let’s see how it goes against the Rams.
10. Jamison Crowder is the top dawg in the District… for now.
Crowder led the Redskins with seven catches for 141 yards off of 10 targets. In week eleven, he led the team again with eight targets even though Josh Doctson led the team in yards. The rookie has been all over the map since becoming a regular staple of the offense, but so has Crowder. This past Thanksgiving game could be Crowder asserting himself—finally—and moving forward as the wideout the Redskins have been sorely needing since week one. He’s got a favorable matchup against the Cowboys this week and then face three top corners in Casey Hayward, Patrick Peterson, Chris Harris Jr. and as a closer, Janoris Jenkins. Crowder is either going to rise or shrink and looking ahead at 2018, this will color how he is viewed heading into 2018… if Kirk Cousins is a Redskin.