The NFL Network is in the windy city on Thursday night for the Giants and Bears. New York will be without David Wilson, but some would say the GIants have been playing without him all season. Atlanta and Miami are on bye this week, the Falcons are expecting Stephen Jackson back in week seven while the Dolphins running back situation is something I am thankful I have no stake in. Pittsburgh, Washington, Minnesota and Tampa Bay return after taking a break with bye's in week five. Fantasy nation very pleased to get Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris, Le'Veon Bell and Doug Martin back in their respective lineups. Not much relief at the tight end position though, with the possible exception of Kyle Rudolph.
Your fantasy depth will really be tested this week with a full fledged bye week. Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Le'Veon Bell and yes, Adrian Peterson owners muct find other options, at least for one week. Fantasy nation gets Carolina and Green Bay players back this week from bye and they are good to go for the remainder of the season. Four teams have week five off, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, PIttsburgh and Washington. Is Eddie Lacy healthy enough to start or are you a Jonathan Franklin believer. DeAngelo Williams remains a solid start, at least until Jonathan Stewart returns in a couple of weeks. Who had a breakout performance in week four? and who cost your team a win? Time to take a look in this week's report.
How important is it to have a running back that is a part of his team's passing game? In today's game, it is becoming more imporant, especially in fantasy. I have had Marshawn Lynch for several seasons and while I can't complain, it sure would be nice for him to be move involved on third down. The league awaits Rob Gronkowski's return, but for now its Jimmy Graham and Jordan Cameron at the top of the position. Green Bay and Carolina are on bye, so DeAngelo Williams and Greg Olsen get the week off. The Packers try to sort out their running back situation and Jermichael Finley gets a chance to bounce back from concussion issues.
Are you happy with your tight end? I ended up with Antonio Gates and almost cut him after week 1, now am glad I have him. With tight ends I think you have to be patient with the veterans. There are a few new stars emerging like Jordan Cameron, but for the most part it's the same guys from last year that are reliable scorers. Running backs are another story, other than Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles, how many are three down backs? Hopefully by tracking how much they are targeted week to week can help you get a handle on the situation.
As we wrap up 2012, I wonder how many season's were won.... and lost, due to lack of passing yards accumulated by running backs. It appears that Darren Sproles will be the only back that will hit triple digits in targets for the season. Only half a dozen other backs are averaging four or more targets per week. Injuries to LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte diminished the every down back list, but all in all, teams are throwing the ball downfield more. The "super" tight ends also took a bit of a hit this season. Rob Gronkowski remains sidelined and has dropped from the league leaders. Jimmy Graham has had a solid season, but Jason Witten remains the standard bearer at the position.
If you haven't been eliminated, you have likely moved on to your league's semi-finals. As promised, a little about the unusual playoff structure in my league. We have two six team divisions, with the first place team's getting first round byes. The next four best records play head to head in the NFL's wildcard weekend. Each team is allowed to keep up to two players from their regular season roster, with the remaining players filled out in a (non-snake) draft. Best record picks first and all players (starters and reserves) count. The wildcard weekend winners advance to play the division winners over the NFL's next two weekends. The winners meet in the Super Bowl.
It's playoff time in most fantasy leagues across the nation and time to get back that investment. We continue to see a lack of running backs targeted, at the very least inconsistency. Last season's All-World tight ends aren't bringing in the fantasy bacon as they did a year ago, looking more like tight end's than the wide receiver numbers at the position in 2011. Receiving yards at running back are more icing this season, certainly not something you can count on- so focus on the backs that carry the rock. At tight end, we have a finite list of contributors, we are long past any new breakout players.
Running backs continue to be a disappointing source of passing targets with only Darren McFadden and Darren Sproles averaging more than five per game. Fantasy rosters will be re-populated by the likes of Steven Jackson and Frank Gore this week with Trent Richardson and Albert Morris coming up on their bye week. Tight ends coming off bye include fantasy superstar Rob Gronkowski and Fred Davis among others, with underachieving Jermichael Finley along with his counterparts at Arizona, Cleveland and Washington enjoying a week ten bye. Don't forget Thursday night Colts and Jaguars when submitting lineups.
I haven't compared historical numbers, but fantasy owners just aren't getting the passing numbers (targets) to supplement the dreaded running back by committee. Ray Rice owners have quickly moved him back into starting lineups after his bye week. The Buffalo duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the law firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and fantasy god Arian Foster are also returning. Shonn Greene, Frank Gore, Stephen Jackson and the New England committee are on vacation in week nine. Tight ends Jermaine Greshmam, Dennis Pitta, Scott Chandler and Owen Daniels are back in starting lineups, with Dustin Keller, the struggling Vernon Davis and fantasy favorite Rob Gronkowski taking a seat this weekend.
Note to self- Do whatever it takes to get both Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy on my fantasy football teams in future seasons. Arian Foster you ask? Injury concerns and the Ben Tate presence are a slight distraction with Marshawn Lynch the only running back worthy of argument. Dreams aside, Jamaal Charles appears fully recovered from injury and is the next best all-around bet along with Maurice Jones-Drew. The sleeper of the year remains Alfred Morris, who has quietly been nearly as important to the resurgent Redskins offense as Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III. Jason Witten owners are feeling a bit better this week, actually a lot better after he was targeted more than any tight end in week four, catching 13 of 14 Tony Romo attempts (with the rest going to the Bears).