Fantasy Fast Forward: Rodgers spectacular, Ryan merely mediocre
If Aaron Rodgers could play every game against the Bears, he’d probably already have all of Peyton Manning’s records by now. Rodgers threw six touchdowns in the first half of Green Bay’s Sunday night’s 55-14 shellacking of their division rival. He probably would have set the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a game, if not for the good sense of the Packers’ coaching staff to get him out of the game halfway through the third quarter. In two games against the Bears this year, Rodgers threw for 617 yards, 11.22 yards per attempt, and 10 touchdowns against zero interceptions. He did grab one record on Sunday with a 73-yard scoring strike to Jordy Nelson – it was his 16th career touchdown pass of 70 or more yards, a number no other quarterback has reached in NFL history.
Rodgers connected with Nelson six times for 152 yards and two scores. Nelson also torched the Bears this year, finishing their head-to-head matchups with 16 receptions, 260 yards and four touchdowns. Randall Cobb had four catches for 72 yards and the most impressive touchdown of the night, a one-handed diving grab that put the Packers up 42-0 right before halftime.
Rodgers needs to have a big second half to match his 2011 season, in which he threw for 4.643 yards and threw 45 touchdowns while getting picked off just six times, but he looks primed to surpass those numbers. After dominating the Bears, he now has 2,407 yards, 8.69 yards per attempt, 25 touchdowns and three interceptions. He still has games left with the Eagles, Falcons and Buccaneers, all of whom are soft against the pass. Through 10 weeks, Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and perhaps DeMarco Murray have emerged as the leading candidates for the MVP Award. Given the way Rodgers played on Sunday night, he may be the favorite heading into the final seven weeks of the season.
Unfortunately for some quarterbacks in the league, not everyone played as well as Rodgers on Sunday.
Injuries play a part in every fantasy season. Owners spend a ton of time absorbed in injury news before the season, figuring out which players to avoid, and during the season, making sure to get their optimal lineups active. While owners pay a ton of attention to skill players, they don’t typically think about a lineman getting hurt. However, those injuries impact an entire offense, and can hamper an entire passing or rushing attack. Such is the case with the Falcons and Matt Ryan.
The Falcons lost left tackle Sam Baker to season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Center Joe Hawley went out for the year with a knee injury of his own in the Week 4 loss to the Vikings. Since that game, Matt Ryan has been no better than a fantasy backup quarterback.
In the five games since Hawley’s injury, Ryan has 1,262 yards, 6.86 yards per attempt, six touchdowns and three interceptions. The first time Atlanta played Tampa Bay, with Hawley snapping him the ball, he threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns. In Week 10, with his third center of the year, Ryan got just 219 yards and one score, finishing with a paltry 15.66 points against a team that had allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks heading into Sunday’s action.
Ryan still has great weapons in Julio Jones and Roddy White, and they both got into double-digit fantasy points on Sunday. Their presence makes Ryan a fantasy option, but he isn’t the QB1 that he looked like in the first three weeks of the season. Sunday’s game against the lowly Buccaneers proved that.
Let’s get to the rest of the immediate reactions from Week 10 in the SI.com Fast Forward.
• Jamaal Charles tweaked his ankle injury on Sunday against the Bills, but still put in one of his best games of the season. He picked up 98 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and also caught three passes for 20 yards. He didn’t finish the game, but said he likely would have been able to come back in if there were another quarter to play. Keep an eye on Charles’ practice status this week. He has what should be a tough matchup with the Seahawks next week.
• Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown each ran well, with the former rushing nine times for 62 yards and the latter getting 35 yards on seven carries. Brown also was on his way into the end zone before getting stripped and losing the ball out of bounds. Unfortunately, their days of fleeting fantasy relevance are likely over. Fred Jackson was able to return from a groin injury, getting three carries and four receptions. He’ll likely take over as the primary running back next week.
• Sammy Watkins played despite a groin injury suffered in practice earlier this week. The bad news for his owners was he caught just four passes for 27 yards, but he got 10 targets and appeared to be fully healthy. You’ll be deploying him as usual against the Dolphins next week.
• Calvin Johnson finally looked like the best receiver in the NFL after missing three full games and most of two others with an ankle injury. He returned in Week 10, catching seven of his team-high 15 targets for 113 yards and a touchdown. Johnson didn’t seem to have his usual level of explosion, but he’s back to where he needs to be for his fantasy owners. Meanwhile, he didn’t completely cannibalize Golden Tate’s production. Tate caught 11 passes for 109 yards, and while he didn’t get in the end zone, it was his fifth 100-yard performance in Detroit’s last six games. The Lions offense can easily support a WR1 and a WR2, and that should be the case with Johnson and Tate for the rest of the year. His production may drop off from where it was when Johnson was hurt, but Tate will still be an every-week starter.
• Ryan Tannehill predictably struggled against the Lions, throwing for 201 yards, 5.29 yards per attempt, one touchdown and one interception. Detroit’s speed along the defensive front showed up, as Tannehill had two carries for a total of zero yards. Tannehill had been getting around the equivalent of an extra passing touchdown in standard-scoring leagues via his rushing yards over the last five weeks, but he was a non-factor on the ground on Sunday. He’ll continue to be a borderline starter from week to week, and will likely be a high-end QB2 against the Bills on Thursday night.
• Lamar Miller got just four carries because of his shoulder injury, but it still isn’t expected to be something that costs him too much time. The big problem for him next week is that the Dolphins play on Thursday night. If he’s able to go, he’ll be a low-end RB2.
• So much for Tony Romo’s back problems. Romo threw for 246 yards, 9.11 yards per attempt and three touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 31-17 win over the Jaguars in London. A lot of Romo’s throws were of the short and intermediate variety, but he did hit Bryant on a deep ball down the field that resulted in a 68-yard touchdown. Dallas’ Week 11 bye comes at a perfect time for Romo, but fantasy owners should have plenty of confidence in his health.
• Romo connected with six different receivers, but one of them was not Terrance Williams. That’s the problem with a boom-or-bust player. He’ll continue to be that sort of player, checking in as a WR2 or WR3 most weeks because of his presence in a productive offense.
• Denard Robinson got it done again for his fantasy owners this week. He had 60 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, and is now averaging 16.48 fantasy points per game as a starter. The Jaguars have a bye next week, but Robinson has to be trusted as an RB2 for the rest of the season. He’ll be a strong play against the Colts in Week 12.
• Anquan Boldin has quietly put together a very nice run over the last four weeks. He had six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown in San Francisco’s overtime win over New Orleans on Sunday. It marked the third time in their last four games that he had at least 90 yards and a score. With Vernon Davis basically an apparition in the San Francisco offense, and Michael Crabtree underperforming this year, Boldin is clearly the top option in the San Francisco passing attack. He should be considered an easy WR3 going forward, and should be in fantasy lineups when the 49ers meet the Giants next week.
• Even with Boldin establishing some fantasy consistency over the last month, Colin Kaepernick cannot be thought of as anything other than a sometime starter in traditional one-quarterback leagues. He completed 14 of his 32 pass attempts for 210 yards, 6.56 yards per attempt and one touchdown. The ceiling on this passing attack is pretty low, meaning that Kaepernick gernally isn’t scoring like a starting quarterback without production on the ground.
• Drew Brees had another stat-filled game for his fantasy owners, but his performance wasn’t nearly as effective as it might seem on the surface. He had 292 yards and three touchdowns, but got just 6.21 yards per attempt and turned the ball over three times. His overtime fumble led directly to the game-winning field goal and that was entirely on him, as he held onto the ball far too long. Of course, that only matters to fantasy owners inasmuch as it keeps the New Orleans offense off the field. He still had 21.38 points in standard-scoring leagues.
• The sell Mark Ingram crowd may only get more vocal after the Alabama product ran for 120 yards on 27 carries against the 49ers. As I said last week, that would be a mistake. Not counting his first game after coming back from his broken hand, Ingram has averaged 18.98 fantasy points per game. This is not a mirage. The long-awaited Ingram breakout has finally arrived this season. The Saints still have run-friendly games left with the Bengals, Panthers, Bears and Falcons. He’s a low-end RB1 for the rest of the year.
• We talked last week about Torrey Smith’s WR2 pace over the last six weeks, and he only picked that up in Baltimore’s win over Tennessee on Sunday. He caught five passes for 75 yards, and now has 23 catches for 381 yards and six touchdowns since Week 3. That puts him on a pace to be what traditionally finishes the season as a high-end WR2.
• Lorenzo Taliaferro had three carries for 10 yards against the Titans. Can we please put an end to the start Taliaferro boomlet? You can’t trust a bit player as a fantasy starter simply because he gets goal-line carries.
• Ben Roethlisberger didn’t quite throw for six touchdowns against the Jets on Sunday. He struggled for the entire first half, but salvaged his fantasy game with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant in the fourth quarter, finishing with 343 yards and the score, as well as two interceptions. This was his best matchup of the last three weeks, so it only makes sense that it was the one in which he crashed back to earth. Still, you'll want him in your lineup when the Steelers take on the Titans on Monday Night Football.
• Speaking of broken streaks, Antonio Brown finally came up short of 80 yards for the first time in nearly three months of football. He had an uncharacteristically sloppy game, catching eight passes for 74 yards and losing two fumbles. He did get tackled on the one-yard line, coming up just short of another double-digit fantasy day. Bryant must have taken consistency lessons from Brown, because all he does is get in the end zone week after week. He now has six scores in four games in his NFL career. Bryant also put up a career-high 143 yards in the Steelers’ loss to the Jets. Consider him a WR3 for the remainder of the season.
• Even with Matt Ryan putting up an average performance on Sunday, Julio Jones and Roddy White had nice games for their fantasy owners. Jones had eight catches for 119 yards, while White hauled in six passes for 72 yards and a score. Ryan may not be a reliable fantasy starter himself, but that doesn’t mean it trickles down to the receivers.
• Steven Jackson ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the win over the Buccaneers. He can still show up as an RB2 in the right matchups, and he has another one of those next week against the Panthers. He also has games with the Browns, Packers and Saints looming.
• On the other side of the field from Jones and White was a rookie receiver who is coming into his own. Mike Evans caught seven passes for 125 yards and a score on Sunday, the second straight game in which he surpassed the century mark. Over his last five games, Evans is averaging 14.94 fantasy points per contest, which translates to an elite WR1 for the entire season. He should be started every week, regardless of the matchup or who is under center for the Buccaneers.
• If there was any doubt about who is going to lead the Tampa Bay backfield for the rest of the season, we got a big hint on Sunday. Bobby Rainey had six carries for 14 yards, while rookie Charles Sims carried the ball eight times for 23 yards in his NFL debut. Rainey had five targets while Sims had two, but it looks like the Buccaneers are ready to turn to the future, at least at the running back position. This still isn’t a great situation, so consider Sims an RB3, at best. Unless you’re absolutely desperate for roster space, you should also hold onto Rainey for the time being. At the very least, he’s going to split the workload with Sims, and he’ll remain on the field for passing downs.
• Welcome to fantasy relevance, C.J. Anderson. He hadn’t played for the Broncos at all after Montee Ball’s groin injury, but suddenly led the team in carries and snaps against the Raiders. He took advantage of his opportunity, picking up 90 yards on the ground and catching four passes for 73 yards, including an impressive 51-yard touchdown. It’s too early to tell if this was just an anomaly or if it has any lasting power, but owners should be aggressive in their pursuit of Anderson this week.
• Peyton Manning threw two interceptions early against the Raiders and had five passes tipped at the line by the early second quarter. Just when he looked like he might actually be a normal human quarterback, he threw touchdown passes on five straight possessions, finishing with 29.6 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. There’s really nothing more to say here, other than that Manning is a fantasy stud in every sense of the term.
• Julius Thomas finally got north of 50 yards again this week, but his owners were likely a lot more interested in his two touchdowns. Thomas isn’t going to be a yardage monster, but his huge presence in the Denver offense is enough to make him one of the best fantasy tight ends in the league. He remains an attractive sell, though, given his expected price tag on the open market.
• Popular spot starter Mychal Rivera came through on Sunday, catching six passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. He proved that he can be more than just a spot starter, by posting his third straight game with at least eight fantasy points. In those three games, he has 21 catches for 185 and three touchdowns. He had just 22 targets through the first six weeks of the season, but has 28 in the last three. Rivera’s role has increased in the Oakland offense, making him a borderline starter from week to week.
• The Seahawks ran for 350 yards in their win over the Giants, led by Marshawn Lynch with 140. He scored four touchdowns, as well, registering a whopping 40.3 points for his fantasy owners in standard-scoring leagues. Russell Wilson added 107 yards and a touchdown, but had just 172 yards through the air, along with two interceptions. We’ve made this point over the last few weeks, but it bears repeating that Wilson simply doesn’t do enough through the air to warrant consistent fantasy consideration.
• Odell Beckham Jr. caught seven of his nine targets for 108 yards on Sunday, and looks like the true No. 1 receiver for the Giants. Preston Parker caught all seven of his targets for 79 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Rueben Randle again led the team with 10 targets, but had just five receptions for 39 yards. He shouldn’t be on your radar.
• The Cardinals won their eighth game of the season on Sunday, but they suffered a huge loss that could significantly alter the postseason. Carson Palmer left with a knee injury that the team fears is a torn ACL. The playoffs may look a whole lot different, but for our purposes here, we’re a lot more concerned with how the move to Drew Stanton affects their fantasy values. Stanton hit John Brown on a long touchdown to help the Cardinals get a win over the Rams, but everyone in the offense is better off with Palmer in there. Michael Floyd was a no-show again, catching just one pass for 11 yards, but Larry Fitzgerald and Brown have come on strong over the last four weeks. With Stanton under center, they have to be downgraded for the rest of the season. Consider Fitzgerald a WR2, while Brown and Floyd are WR4s.