While there weren’t too many surprises during the NFL Week 11 action, fantasy football owners had one very important factor slap them in the face and force them to start looking at their upcoming match-ups a little differently. We’re talking about the weather. Seasoned veterans of the game are all too familiar with the need to check the most recent weather reports before ultimately submitting their lineup, but there were probably numerous rookie mistakes made as the inclement weather changed a number of offensive game plans.
While we still saw a fairly strong number of high-scoring games, there were a number of fantasy disappointments due to the weather. Josh McCown and Brandon Marshall had a tough time hooking up as 10 targets went Marshall’s way but only four were caught for a total of 42 yards. Or how about Riley Cooper who saw seven targets but only came up with three catches for 37 yards?
And it’s not like you can pin the blame on just the receivers as the slippery conditions obviously affect a number of the quarterbacks as well. Andy Dalton had a fairly successful day, but had to keep things moving with a very short passing game, averaging just 3.4 yards per pass and still posting just a 48.1-percent completion rating. Geno Smith tossed up three interceptions, Jason Campbell had three as well and Dalton threw a pair of picks himself. Players can always find some way to be productive in crappy weather, but, for the most part, you have to assume that bad weather will promote a strong rushing attack than passing and you should certainly expect a number of mistakes, most likely from those who aren’t used to the conditions or are somewhat mistake-prone already.
And it’s not just individual players you should be looking at. With the number of interceptions and fumbles we see each week, the total grows even more when the weather is nasty. Ever have your bare arm slapped by someone when it’s bitter cold out? Hurts like a mother, doesn’t it? Now magnify that slap by a thousand and imagine how a running back or wide receiver feels when getting battered by a series of defenders. Also, the ball is as hard as a rock which causes a whole world of other difficulties. If you’re streaming defenses, it just might be worth using ones that are playing in cold, rainy (or snowy) weather. The worse it is out there, the more mistakes and turnovers you’re likely to see. All it takes is one fumble recovery for a touchdown or a pick-six to boost your defensive totals.
Just be smart when making your decisions and don’t forget to check the weather. It really doesn’t take much to get the right information and help make better decisions. Now here’s what else from Week 11 that has me thinking…
It really sucks to be changing horses this late in the game, but we’ve got a couple of situations we need to stay on top of this week. Waiver wire darling and potential late-season sleeper Case Keenum was benched by coach Gary Kubiak in favor of Matt Schaub and now they’re being all coy as to who will start next week. The Texans have some tasty match-ups ahead which is what made Keenum such an attractive option, but things have obviously now changed. Personally, I think Keenum should retain the job as one bad game, even against a crappy Raiders team, shouldn’t put him back on the bench. Besides, it wasn’t like Schaub did anything worthwhile either. He led two drives which stalled and forced the Texans to settle for field goals and he even had the ball at 1st and goal with the game on the line and still couldn’t punch it in. When the game ended he and Andre Johnson had words, and while Johnson ultimately admitted to running an incorrect route, it’s a very telling stat when you see that the star wide receiver had zero touchdowns with Schaub under center, but five in four games with Keenum.
The Raiders themselves have a bit of a problem as it looks like Terrelle Pryor is in serious danger of losing his job on a permanent basis. Even before Matt McGloin set foot on the field, there were rumblings of him supplanting Pryor on a permanent basis. Now add in 197 yards of three-touchdown, zero-turnover, mistake-free ball and you’ve got yourself an even bigger controversy. The Raiders face a tough match-up again with Tennessee’s strong defense and it just might be that McGloin is better suited for this one than Pryor is. Again though, we’ll have to wait and see what the brass in Oakland have to say about it.
Other QBs potentially on the hot seat include: Geno Smith, NYJ (8 INTs to 1 TD over last five games); Christian Ponder, MIN (yanked during game but is Josh Freeman the answer?); Nick Foles (what happens when Michael Vick is ready to return?)
The Rice Report
As I mentioned in my Week 11 start/sit article, Ray Rice was primed for a big game this week against a soft Bears run defense and it didn’t hurt that the weather pointed to a stronger rushing attack as well. After weeks of nothing but sheer disappointment, Rice broke out for 131 rushing yards and found the endzone for the first time in five games. The performance was huge for so many owners, not just for those who played him, but also for some surprise upsets in your league which could very well have affected your playoff picture. But before you start anointing Rice as your late-season savior, keep in mind that this was a particularly easy match-up. With upcoming games against the Jets and the Lions, two of the stingier run defenses, he might not be putting up the points you’d like to see. And don’t sleep on the Steelers run defense either. They did a fairly good job stifling the Lions ground game this past week and have been better here in the latter half of the season, holding three teams under 100 yards in their last six games.
It’s Always Rainey in Tampa Bay
While everyone and their grandmother was sniffing the jock of Brian Leonard after Mike James went down, some of us had a differing opinion as to who should get the rock after James broke his ankle. Bobby Rainey, an unheralded second-year running back out of Western Kentucky, always looked like a better runner than Leonard, but wasn’t supposed to be given the opportunity because Leonard was supposed to be the better pass-blocker. But who the hell needs pass-blocking when your running back is ripping off chunks of yardage every time he touches the ball? Rainey showed that he could break through for the long touchdown with a 43-yard run in the first quarter, he could punch it in at the goal line with a three-yard run for a score and he even showed that he was capable of catching the ball and taking it to the house with a four-yard TD grab. Hell, they even let him throw the ball once, though the pass fell incomplete. Moving forward, it will be Rainey leading the charge with Leonard acting as the complementary back. Just be careful as the Bucs face some tough run defenses in the coming weeks.
Can we please put this guy to bed already? Lamar Miller blows. Nineteen yards on 11 carries over the last two games? That’s leading running back material? And it’s not even like San Diego or Tampa Bay were really that powerful in the run defense department either. Whether Daniel Thomas is a better back or not is completely irrelevant. Miller is practically useless whether he’s starting or not. And now with match-ups coming against the Panthers and the Jets, one would have to think that negative yardage is more than just a possibility.
Bench That Bush
Thanks to a case of the fumbles, Reggie Bush was benched in Detroit and had it not been for a re-aggravation of a foot injury for Joique Bell, he probably wouldn’t have seen a single snap in the second half. While there’s no running back controversy in Motown, fantasy owners will need to keep tabs on which coaches are getting frustrated to the point where a quick hook can happen to even the team’s most productive player.
Key Injuries to Watch:
Wes Welker, WR DEN – Will undergo NFL concussion protocol this week
Keenan Allen, WR SD – Knee injury leaves Philip Rivers without his favorite target.
Mike Brown, WR JAC – Shoulder injury means everything is coming up Ace(s).
Julius Thomas, TE DEN – Headed for tests on the knee Monday
Jordan Reed, TE WAS – Does the concussion open the door for Fred Davis?