HOGS AND DOGS: WEEK 15
By: Chris Dugas
Welcome to another weekly installment of some good ole fashioned Hogs and Dogs. The strangest season in fantasy history continues as more running backs go down with injury while wide receivers continue to be the most consistent players in the game. Congrats to all that are still alive in this wild and wacky season and best of luck to those who play consolation games this weekend. This week we have our first 180 as Todd Gurley goes from a Dog in week 14 because of his team’s brutal offense, to a Hog this week as they finally decided to give the ball to their best player. That is one thing I will never understand, why you don’t force feed the ball to your best player. Key examples this week are DeAndre Hopkins, Dez Bryant, and Lamar Miller in the 2nd half. Without further ado, may we present to you, week 15.
Todd Gurley – I almost benched this guy last week for Buck Allen. Almost. Thank goodness I did not. Gurley absolutely went off against a pretty stout Lions defense, goring them for 140 yards on 15 carries and 2 teeds. He’s also on track to record 1000 yards through just 12 games. He has a few difficult matchups to end the season as he has to face Tampa Bay (given up the 7th least fantasy points to RBs this year) and Seattle (given up the least), but are you really going to bench this guy? Detroit’s defense played well for about 40 minutes on Sunday, but the other 20 were owned by Gurley, who is becoming a star. Some of the holes that are opening up for him may seem like they would be there for just about anyone, but the speed with which he gets to the hole and explodes through the hole are what makes them look so big. This guy is the real deal. Don’t let me call this guy a dog ever again, and here’s hoping that St. Louis realizes what happens when the ball in the hands of a great talent like Gurls.
Tim Hightower – Out of nowhere! What a game for Lazarus as he was resurrected last week against the Buccaneers. Hightower played well last week against a tough Tampa defense amassing 95 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a starter since 2011. But with this being the weirdest running back year in the history of fantasy football, is anyone actually surprised by this? Chris Johnson was surprisingly playing well before he went down and the Patriots are looking into possibly giving former all-pro running back Steven Jackson a shot. Hightower will be a volume-based play the ROS. Hightower looked very physical on Sunday, and looks to deliver some of the same blows to a Lions defense this weekend that was just gashed by Mr. Gurley. Hightower filled the role of Mark Ingram quite nicely, being a persistent, bruising back that can also catch the ball out of the backfield when needed. Back in ’09, he caught the ball 63 times out of Arizona’s backfield, so his catching ability is there.
Eddie Lacy – Look at these running backs coming through in the clutch. Lacy broke through again and looks to finally have control over the backfield as long as he doesn’t miss curfew again. Is he finally resurrected? With Mike McCarthy calling the plays again, I think we will see more running plays on offense, especially for Lacy. The Packers know that they need Lacy to really get going in order for the offense to click, so look for McCarthy to feed him the rock these next few weeks heading into the playoffs. Now, I don’t believe that Lacy will automatically become the pure starter next week at Oakland, but I do expect him to be the 1A back with James Starks being the 1B. This is still a risky situation going forward, but I know I will be firing up Lacy in a few leagues as my RB2 for this weekend’s games. Lacy is the much more talented player here, but the Packers for whatever reason don’t want to give him the full workload, and thus Starks continues to see a decent amount of touches.
Giovani Bernard – I’m going to take the contrarian view here and say that Gio, and not Jeremy Hill, capitalizes on the loss of Andy Dalton situation. My thinking is that if the Bengals get down, especially early, they will need to throw a lot more. If they cannot get anything going on the ground, which is definitely a possibility as teams can stack the box and force the Bengals to throw, then they will have to move the ball through the air, where Gio excels. Now I know game flow is not something that you can really count on, nor is it something that I like to predict but I think that over the next two weeks, the Bengals could find themselves in some less than promising situations where they are forced to throw, thus increasing Bernard’s value. I think this is more likely to come to fruition next week against Denver, but this San Fran team can sometimes play up to their opponent’s level. I might hold off on starting him this week until roles shake out with McCarron under center, unless you’re desperate.
Calvin Johnson – I’m guessing a decent amount of teams lost last week because of what happened with Calvin. But, as I explained earlier, you need to get the damn ball to your best players. And even though Calvin may be 30 years old, he’s still a generational talent that needs the ball to be thrown his way. 5 targets is not going to get that done, Mr. Stafford. I expect him to bounce back this week against a notoriously heinous Saints secondary. The Rams actually have a pretty decent secondary that’s given up the 3rd least points to receivers this year, so that had something to do with his 1-16 performance on Sunday. Johnson now gets to face the Saints and the 49ers in what should be big games for the future HOFer. You weren’t actually thinking about sitting him were you?
Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall – A little double trouble here as the New York wideouts have been the most consistent receivers in fantasy this year. Marshall has had two games all year with just single digit fantasy points and has finished as a top 24 WR in all but one game this year. Decker, on the other hand, has scored at least 8.1 points in every game and has been a top 30 WR every week. You can’t ask for a better floor. They both have finished as at least a WR3 every week that they have played this year. They have a tough matchup this week against a Dallas defense that has given up the 3rd most points to opposing receivers this season and then conclude the fantasy season with a decent matchup against the Patriots who could already have a first round bye locked up. I would predict that New England tries to take Marshall away and that will open up Decker to single coverage.
Buck Allen – Similar situation to Gurley in terms of help from his offense, but unfortunately this whole team is decimated by injury and Allen just doesn’t have the same pure skill that Gurley has. I had him as a Hog a few weeks back but that was with his ROS schedule being somewhat difficult. Now, it looks even worse and he may be without decent backup QB Matt Schaub. Baltimore plays Kansas City and Philly the next two weeks after having to deal with Seattle this past week. Things will be very difficult going forward for the young Buck. He also had a bad fumble at the end of the first half in last week’s game, which is never good for us fantasy owners. I think you have to keep him glued to your bench unless you’re desperate for a plug and play at RB. I’d consider guys like Denard Robinson and Fozzy Whittaker over Allen this week.
Philadelphia Backfield (Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, Demarco Murray, Kenjon Barner) – What a bummer, huh? So much talent in this backfield, but so much more unpredictability. Chip Kelly said two weeks ago that the backfield was going to be game plan specific going forward. On top of that, he basically rotated everyone each drive with Sproles getting 21 snaps, Murray getting 22 snaps, Mathews getting 16, and Barner playing just 2. Mathews was the “starter” and Murray was the one they gave the ball to in order to run down the clock late in the game. There was basically no pattern to any of the usage for these guys and because of that, none of them can be trusted ROS. Even if they feature one guy this week, they could take the Patriots approach and barely give him any touches the next week. Yet another mess that I would like to stay away from.
Shaun Draughn – He hasn’t been bad per se, but he hasn’t really been good either. His best week came against Chicago, but then last week he blew a good opportunity to stick it to (one of) his old teams. Unfortunately, he only came away with 5.1 points. His next two games? Cincinnati and Detroit. Woof. The volume will definitely be there but if the 49ers get behind early, which is definitely likely, he could fall victim to game flow again these next two weeks. Game flow aside, Draughn should be modestly productive for the 49ers offense as he has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well. He’s a pure volume play, but not someone that I want to put my playoff trust in.
Matt Jones – Another rookie running back facing some challenges this year. He just can’t string together anything impressive and has had trouble all season holding onto the ball. Luckily, he hasn’t fumbled in his last three games, but with me saying that, he will probably cough another one up this week. Jones can’t be trusted any more than a RB3 at this point as he has only scored double digits once in his past 11 games. The one good game he had was against who other than the Nawlins Saints. Though Jones might be getting the bulk of the carries at this point, who can predict what will happen game in and game out with Morris still there. He’s a risky play and at that will only get you around 8 points max. There are plenty of other guys with similar floors but much higher ceilings.
Dorial Green-Beckham – Really hope none of you played him last week after his one big game. Ive been saying it for weeks, the only guy you can actually trust in the Tennessee offense is Delanie Walker. Playing against the Jets was his best chance to put up big numbers but he still couldn’t really capitalize against a struggling Antonio Cromartie. He dropped a couple of balls last week and the offense is a mess under Mike Mularkey. I don’t think you can really trust much on this team other than Delanie. I think next year, under a new coach presumably, this offense can figure things out and Mariota to Green-Beckham can become something we’re more used to hearing. The guy is a beast and a freak of an athlete but he needs to figure out how to use his body to create separation and how to use his damn hands to catch the ball. He has tough matchups down the stretch as he has to face New England and Houston, two top 7 defenses. What a bunch of malarkey.
Buffalo – Boy, what has happened to this defense? A force last year, most expected them to only get better under defensive minded Sexy Rexy. Once known for his ability to coach mediocre defenses into above average if not great defenses, Rex has been completely off his game this year. After losing Brandon Spikes to free agency and trading Kiko Alonso, the defense has just not been the same this year. We’d like to point this out as one of the many reasons not to waste a high draft pick on a defense. Last year the Bills defense allowed 289 points and 313.2 yards per game. This year? They’ve already allowed 301 points through 13 games and allow 358.8 yards a game. And look whose defense is much improved from last year. The Gang Green New York Jets. Ryan might not be the defensive wiz that he used to be. But hey, at least he isn’t Rob.