On Monday's Week 15 edition of First Aid, the Helpers analyze Seattle/San Francisco and Detroit/Minnesota and give out fantasy value to the players in those contests. Plus weekly awards and a quick preview of Chicago/New Orleans tonight. Enjoy.
On Tuesday's edition of First Aid. The Helpers discuss the Bears/Cowboys and Eagles/Seahawks and give their fantasy implications for those players in Week 15. Plus weekly awards and a little venting on fluky week 14 was in some instances.
Start of the week:
LeSean McCoy @ Green Bay Packers — #4 in weekly rankings
It's tough to plug McCoy as an RB1 these days, and that's mainly because it's tough to really pin him down this year in general. He was strong the last four weeks (two 100-yard games to go along with two 80-yard games) before tossing up a dud against Carolina despite a 45 point effort by the Eagles' offense.
But despite a lackluster performance on the stat sheet as of late and only two touchdowns on the season overall by the RB, the Eagles currently sit atop the NFC and Chip Kelly has found a way to consistently utilize McCoy without relying on him to score the football to win games. Even with his not-so-amazing stats, there's still plenty of reason to get excited about his fantasy value in Week 11.
McCoy finds himself in a great matchup against a weak run defense in Green Bay. The Packers have surrendered a 30th-worst 142 rushing yards per game. McCoy will also be playing in the frigid cold of Lambeau Field, where the temperature is expected to be around 30 degrees before kickoff at 4 p.m. The Eagles had the luxury of not playing in too many cold games last season, but McCoy rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns against a bad Chicago defense in Chicago during the winter weather in 2013. McCoy also torched Green Bay for 155 yards when the two teams played in Green Bay last season.Though past efforts aren't necessarily an indication of future efforts, it's just worth noting that McCoy has been successful in the cold in past games.
When it comes to how well the offense has been playing, the Eagles offensive line continues to get stronger as they get healthier. They protected quarterback Mark Sanchez extremely well last week against Carolina, and while Julius Peppers may be a bit tougher to contain, the presence of Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis should help keep the Green Bay front four in check. If you remember, the Eagles offensive line did a good job containing J.J. Watt when they played the Texans a few weeks ago, as they held one of the best defensive ends in football to just one tackle for a loss.
Weather conditions may also come into play here, as Sanchez will be having to deal with throwing a frozen ball which could mean the Eagles may opt to go more run heavy. Aside from his 12 attempts last week in a lopsided game, McCoy had rushed for 24, 21, 22 and 24 in his previous efforts. There's a good chance he does that again given the conditions in Green Bay.
Montee Ball @ St. Louis — #26 in weekly rankings
Currently listed as probable, expect Ball to be eased back into the lineup opposite C.J. Anderson. But with Ronnie Hillman out, there's a good chance Ball sees some carries and maybe snags a goal line touchdown or two. The Rams are allowing a little over 124 rushing yards per game (25th worst) but they held Andre Ellington to just 1.3 yards per carry last week and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Russell Wilson in Week 7.
Don't expect Ball to light the world on fire since he hasn't been the most explosive option even when he's been healthy (only averaged 3.1 yards per carry in his four starts), but the situation calls for him getting a little bit of action and sometimes all a player needs is a little opportunity.
Ball is a good flex play if you're in a deep league. He could vulture a touchdown on the goal line which is all you need in that spot. Just to be clear — Ball is not likely to go off this week at all, but there's potential for him to see enough of a workload to warrant a productive day.
Shane Vereen @ Indianapolis— #25 in weekly rankings
Vereen (and the entire Patriots' backfield for that matter) remain difficult to predict in fantasy football thanks to the chess-like mind of Pats' coach Bill Belichick. It's almost as if Belichick hates fantasy football and trots out the running back who hasn't scored much lately and gives him the most carries. Jonas Gray, Stevan Ridley, insert-next-running-back-who-will-now-be-a-household-name-here.
Despite the wonky RB favoritism, there's a lot of potential for Vereen this week. The Colts and Patriots will likely be a shootout between two premier quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Tom Brady. The game will also be played under the comfortable dome conditions of Lucas Oil Stadium, so there's no cold interfering with the stats.
As for Vereen, he caught 13 passes over the last five games, so he's been on a PPR roll. The Patriots are coming off their bye week, so they're rested. Overall, Vereen remains the best fantasy back among the Patriots due to his versatility.
Marshawn Lynch @ Kansas City— #2 in weekly rankings
It's tough to say, but consider benching Lynch this week against Kansas City. He's banged up, and is going against a strong Kansas City defense that kept the Bills run game largely in check last week. Lynch posted his best effort of the season last week against the New York Giants, where he ran for 140 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first time Lynch eclipsed the 100-yard mark since Week 1 against Green Bay. Expect him to revert back to the more subdued version of beast mode against Kansas City, and likely finish with 67 yards and maybe a touchdown.
Start of the week
DeMarco Murray vs. New York Giants — #1 in weekly rankings
It's impossible to rank Murray behind anyone else at this point. If his owners aren't already fist pumping for all his production so far this season, his matchup for Week 7 is also decent. The Giants defense allowed 203 rushing yards last week from the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that has struggled in the run game due to a battered offensive line.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, have one of the best offensive lines in the league and Murray has yet to run for less than 100 yards in a game this season. Dallas also has the added benefit of playing at home, where a rocking crowd that finally has a reason to cheer a winning team will no doubt add another advantage.
It's not to say the Giants can't surprise and keep Murray in check. They're one of the most resilient teams in football as evidenced by their three straight wins following an 0-2 start. Still, they haven't fared too well against the run this season. They've allowed 116 rushing yards per game on average (17th in the NFL) and surrendered seven rushing touchdowns which is tied for third worst in the league.
If Murray somehow doesn't have a good game, it will be more because they opt to use their backups in a blowout or they simply scale his carries back and rely on Romo a bit more. That's unlikely to happen though based on how well the formula has worked so far for Dallas. Also, the Cowboys (5-1) will want to keep the pedal to the medal to gain some distance from another 5-1 team in Philadelphia while the Eagles rest on their bye week. Murray is as much of a lock as any RB in the league this week.
Andre Ellington @ Oakland — #12 in weekly rankings
Ellington has yet to the cross the 100-yard plateau this season, with the closest coming in Week 2 against the New York Giants where he rushed for 91 yards. But this week is his best chance to do just that. The Raiders are coming off a game where they allowed more than 100 yards to Chargers RB Branden Oliver.
Oakland has been dismal against the run. They'r allowing 149 rushing yards per game this season, which is second worst only to Green Bay. Carson Palmer is expected to play, which should help Ellington's numbers in the receiving game as he recorded a season-high six catches last week against Washington. Ellington is one of the more versatile running backs in fantasy and should give owners a decent outing in Week 7.
Fred Jackson vs. Minnesota — #18 in weekly rankings
Old Mr. reliable. Running backs in the NFL often age like milk, but Jackson is aging like wine. He always finds a way to make fantasy owners who start him happy. If he doesn't rush for a lot of yards, he scores a touchdown. If he doesn't score a touchdown, he gets you some good PPR numbers and 30-40 rushing yards. He never explodes for big games, but he always hovers around the 5-8 fantasy point mark, which is all you need out of a flex guy. Jackson's 30 total targets is second most in the NFL among running backs, trailing only Matt Forte.
While Jackson has more upside than Spiller, there's some still points of concern. The Bills offensive line is just not good, as evidenced by their recent struggles in the run game against both Detroit and New England. If you watched those games, you noticed running backs like C.J. Spiller getting surrounded by defenders before they even have a chance to get up the field. The difference is, Spiller runs east and west while Jackson bursts through for all the yards he can get. Spiller could have more upside if the line was better since he's more a straight line speed guy.
But that's why Jackson is the better fantasy option — he's more versatile. The Bills like to split him out wide from time to time and use him in the screen game, which gives him added value in the receiving game. Laterally, he can make guys miss in a way similar to Ahmad Bradshaw in Indianapolis (who also suffers from a bad offensive line). He's better in pass protection as well. Overall, Jackson's just a better player than Spiller for this scheme.
Jackson's best chance for a big week may very well be against Minnesota. The Vikings' defense ranks 17th against the run, having allowed 117 yards per game through six weeks. They've also allowed six rushing touchdowns which is tied for 24th in the league. Quarterback Kyle Orton, while not playing his best football as of now, still has more upside than E.J. Manuel and should target Jackson plenty in the backfield. Expect Jackson to rush for anywhere between 60-70 yards and add 6-10 catches for 50-70 yards. A goal line touchdown is not out of the question either and would be icing on the cake.
Marshawn Lynch vs. St. Louis — #2 in weekly rankings
I know we have Lynch ranked high this week and you should definitely still start him, but beast mode hasn't been activated in a while which is cause for concern. Lynch only carried the ball 10 times last week against Dallas in a 23-30 loss. Those 10 carries were his second lowest output since Week 2 against San Diego. In that game, he ran just six times in a 21-30 loss. It would seem the Seahawks might be starting to realize their success hinges on Lynch being used more in the run game. It's also worth noting Lynch hasn't run for more than 100 yards since Week 1 against Green Bay.
The Seahawks play the Rams at home, a division rival with a history of giving Seattle trouble no matter what the records are. The Rams defense are also playing better as of recently. They kept Frank Gore in check last Monday night, allowing him just 2.8 yards per carry on 16 rushing attempts. They held LeSean McCoy to under 100 yards a week earlier as well.
Another interesting twist is the Percy Harvin trade, a move which reportedly made Lynch and a few other players irate.
With Harvin gone, the Seahawks might need to rely on Lynch even more so if the Seahawks receiving core doesn't pick up the slack. The Rams could easily stack the box and force more throws from Russell Wilson, something that would keep Lynch from getting more carries. He's still startable, but there's some uncertainty this week.
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