Every week there are certain surprises and disappointments that can really throw us off guard as fantasy owners and strategists. But I am a firm believer that keeping on top of these with good analysis and projecting what results will be down the line can be the difference for your fantasy team and propel you to the playoffs. Each week we'll find a couple such instances during the games and point out the important things that you may have missed along the way.
Being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, of course I'm going to bring up what was quite an amazing performance by the Steelers on Sunday against the Colts. Despite the medicore showings that the Steelers have had in the first several weeks of the 2014 NFL season, Week 7 and 8's match-ups have shown that their offense is clicking and the defense is starting to figure out who they are. First, Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed what was easily his best regular season performance of all time.. putting up 522 yards and 6 TD's. That's just a few yards shy of the best statistical performance from an NFL quarterback in the history of the league. We know that Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are every week plays for fantasy owners, but does this mean that Roethlisberger should be looked at as a top 10 QB going forward? He's currently the #7 QB overall in standard scoring leagues after this Sunday and I think he'll end the year at the bottom of the top 10. The only QB to have thrown for more yards than him this year is Andrew Luck. Markus Wheaton was a popular pick as a WR sleeper before the season started and is still a part of the offense, but the chemistry between him and Big Ben has yet to impress. With 6'4" rookie Martavis Bryant finally healthy and involved in games it looks like he'll move into the WR2 role in Pittsburgh which comes along with plenty of redzone targets and loose coverage opposite Antonion Brown. Bryant is immediately in the waiver wire discussion (owned in 10% of leagues but finishing as the #9 WR in Week 8 with 20.30 fantasy points in a standard league).
Tom Brady has quickly eliminated any doubt that we had about his 2014 season. True, he started out the year underwhelming fantasy owners even to the point of dropping him before his breakout game against Buffalo, but has since improved dramatically along with other key components of the offense. It has long been known that Brady's recent successes can be tied to good games by Gronkowski - and that certainly was the case against Chicago on Sunday when The Gronk scored 3 touchdowns on 9 receptions for 149 yards. The running back situation in New England has always been up-in-the-air, and especially this year with Stevan Ridley out and Bolden not being used. It looks to me like we can safely say that Vereen and newcomer Jonas Gray will be the primary options from here on out (until injury or ball-control issues, at least), with Gray taking on Ridley's responsibilities including goal-line carries. Keep in mind that Gray nearly scored a touchdown on Sunday, and if he had (along with his 17 rushes for 86 yards) he would certainly be in the discussion for the #1 waiver wire pickup this week. The real enigma as of late has been Julian Edelman: trending down over the past few weeks, we have to wonder if his role (so crucial last year to the Patriot's success) has been cannibalized by a healthy Gronkowski and the emergence of Brandon LaFell (at least 4 receptions over the past 3 games including 3 TD's, last game was 11 for 124 and 1 TD). LaFell is also definitely in the waiver wire discussion this week (only owned in 35% of leagues, #11 WR in Week 8 with 18.40 fantasy points in a standard league).
Admittedly I was down on Mark Ingram a bit for several reasons.. first, I don't like playing players when just coming back from injury and second, the two defenses that Ingram performed well against at the beginning of the season (Atlanta and Cleveland) have graded out to be absolutely terrible against running backs over the course of the year so far (giving up over 1000 rushing yards each and a combined 20 TD's on the ground). Ingram turned out to be a terrific fantasy asset on Sunday night, rushing 24 times for 172 yards and 1 TD and adding 1 reception for 3 yards. So, should we be slotting him into lineups each week from here on out? First of all, he should be owned in all leagues.. he is currently owned in only 69% of Yahoo fantasy leagues and if he is available he should be your first pickup this week without question. Let's temper ourselves a bit, though, and look deeper into the situation: Ingram is currently without any competition in the backfield because Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas are both out with injuries. According to the most recent news, both should also miss Friday's contest against the Panthers leaving Ingram with the unquestioned primary role once more and making him a RB1 for the match-up against a soft Carolina rushing defense. Travaris Cadet is an intriguing player who is also getting more time on the field now as the passing down specialist (4 receptions for 40 yards on Sunday night) but is no threat to Ingram's job and should fade back into the background when Pierre Thomas is able to resume play. The one thing that I want to caution about after all of this good news, is that the Packers were also bad against the rush.. which means that although I think Ingram will be great against the Panthers on Thursday, he still has yet to play a team of any real skill against running backs. In weeks 10-13 the Saints will face up against the 49ers, Bengals, Ravens and Steelers.. all teams that are much better equipped to stifle his production. When Thomas and Robinson return (as early as week 10), we'll also see a return to the Saints' 3-headed RB committee. What does all of this mean? Well.. play Ingram this week, but try as hard as you can to push him in a trade before his fantasy production falters in the coming weeks.