So Chris Johnson ran for 127 yards and a touchdown at Carolina in Week 10, throwing the Fantasy world into pandemonium.
The reaction of CBSSports.com users ranged from ecstatic to enraged, with really no middle ground.
The believers celebrated with the kind of enthusiasm normally reserved for beer commercials and ice cream trucks.
"Johnson is back, baby! I knew if I held on to him something good would happen! I knew it! I knew! Now I can trade DeMarco Murray for Eric Decker and never have to start that choke artist Vincent Jackson again! This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me!"
The skeptics responded with a comparable number of exclamation marks. Only theirs reeked of anger.
"It's a fluke! He's a hack! I cut him last week, and I'm still laughing about it now! Hahahaha! Trade him for whatever you can while he still has value! A petri dish! A cucumber! Just get him out of there!"
I don't mean to criticize either approach, but both seem a little extreme to me. Responding to week-to-week fluctuations in production with sweeping roster changes that alter the fundamental composition of your team is a reckless way to play Fantasy Football.
SW: Um ... no. I think Robinson is a perfectly fine option in Fantasy right now -- and you no doubt agree after watching him score two touchdowns in a start against the Bills last week -- but I don't know how long it'll last. Miles Austin could return from his hamstring injury in a week or two. Or Dez Bryant and Jason Witten could begin to monopolize the passing game, rendering Robinson an afterthought. Or the Cowboys could relive their earlier struggles to get in the end zone. For all that went right for Robinson last week, he caught only three passes, which hardly confirms he's a stud in Austin's absence. The bottom line is too much could go wrong for him for you to make such a heavy investment in him.
I understand Johnson doesn't have the value he used to and might not be able to land you the kind of wide receiver you want, but his value is on the rise now that he's into the easier part of his schedule. He has averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry in back-to-back games and has favorable matchups coming up against the Bills, Saints and Colts in Weeks 13-15. He's not what he used to be, and I wouldn't want to start him over Murray or Bush (at least while they remain starters for their respective teams), but he's more of an asset than an albatross at this point. Something tells me that when Darren McFadden returns for the Raiders, you'll be glad you held on to Johnson.
If nothing else, you should at least hold out for more. Johnson would be an every-week starter for the owner who acquires him. Robinson would be just a temporary fill-in for you. A better solution might be to grab Denarius Moore, Damian Williams or Earl Bennett off the waiver wire. They don't have the same short-term appeal as Robinson, but they have a chance to remain relevant longer.
SW: In today's NFL, with so many teams choosing to neglect the running game in favor of a high-percentage passing game, I've come to appreciate the value of having an elite quarterback in Fantasy. This trade would give you one in Newton. You'd be upgrading to the highest tier at the highest-scoring position in Fantasy, which would be especially sweet since it's a clear position of need for you. In standard leagues, that'd be enough for me to pull the trigger.
But you don't play in a standard league. You play in a PPR format, and in a PPR format, I feel like Rice's receiving ability is too valuable to justify this deal.
Let's do a little math here. Among all NFL running backs, Rice ranks second in receptions with 46. Tate has five. That's a difference of 41 through the first 10 games of the season, which means Rice is outscoring Tate by four or five points per game on receptions alone.
To put it in perspective, an extra four or five points per game is what separates Newton from Mark Sanchez at the quarterback position. It's a big deal.
And keep in mind, that advantage for Rice is on receptions alone. It's before you even factor in the difference in touchdowns or yards. Considering Rice is a full-time running back and Tate is just a change-of-pace option for one of the best in the NFL, you can guess the receptions aren't the only thing separating the two.
So unless you're expecting less than Sanchez-like production from Palmer to close out the season, you don't stand to gain anything in this deal. Considering Palmer is averaging 315.5 passing yards with five passing touchdowns in his first two starts, I think you should see how it goes with him for a couple weeks before trying anything drastic.
It's not like Schaub was giving you anywhere close to those numbers.
SW: McGahee comes with some risk this week after hardly playing last week because of a hamstring injury. But coach John Fox said immediately after that game that McGahee would be available to play Week 11 against the Jets, and he hasn't changed his stance since.
Granted, the season-ending injury to Knowshon Moreno might be contributing to Fox's optimism, and come Sunday, McGahee might not even be able to make it through warm-ups. But the good news is Sunday comes early for the Broncos. They play Thursday -- before any other team can influence your Fantasy lineup -- at a time when the majority of the population is already settled in for the night.
Catch my drift? If something changes for McGahee at the last minute and he winds up on the inactives list that comes out 90 minutes before game time, you can always remove him then. It's a simple matter of checking your computer at the right time.
And it's worth the extra effort. Not only has McGahee performed like a must-start Fantasy option when healthy this season, but he plays for a team that has all but abandoned the pass. If the Broncos asked Tim Tebow to throw only eight times against the Chiefs last week, you better believe they're going to run, run and run some more against Darrelle Revis and company this week.
True, McGahee isn't 100 percent safe even if he's active. He could fake us all out and leave after only four carries again. But Hunter is in a similar situation in San Francisco. He likely won't get an opportunity to contribute in Fantasy unless Gore is limited by a knee injury, and you won't know if Gore is active until the last minute Sunday. The key difference is you won't be able to change your mind once you do know because McGahee will have already played.
Your choice comes down to this: Would you prefer a proven first-stringer and the opportunity to change your mind at the last minute or an unproven second-stringer and no opportunity to change your mind? When you look at it that way, it's an easy call.
I'm deep at running back and wide receiver, but Philip Rivers is killing me at quarterback. Should I trade Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson or Ryan Mathews and Marques Colston for Brady? -- Nate Butcher (via Twitter)
SW: Before I side with one trade or the other, I should first point out that not every Rivers owner needs to rush out and acquire a replacement quarterback. He's still more than adequate as a starter in Fantasy. Granted, the interceptions have hurt his production a bit, but he's fifth in the NFL in passing and remains the focal point of one of the league's more prolific offenses. All he needs to do to regain elite status in Fantasy is cut down on the interceptions, and given his track record, that's likely to happen over the last seven weeks. I have a feeling that, come January, we won't even remember Rivers' struggles.
That said, Brady is as studly as a Fantasy quarterback (other than Aaron Rodgers, of course) gets, so if you have to the depth to make a move for him, you'd be crazy not to.
As for the proposals themselves, I have to admit I'm torn. At first glance, trading Marshall and Nelson seemed like the easy call, but the more I look at Mathews' numbers, the less I'm convinced he's the stud so many people perceive him to be. His recent injury issues -- from his calf to his wrist to his thumb to his groin -- have allowed Mike Tolbert to slip back into the picture, and Tolbert has been productive enough that Mathews might not have many 15-carry games going forward. And without those, his Fantasy productivity will depend on his ability to score touchdowns.
Nelson has obviously been the better touchdown-scorer this year, and though he has to compete for looks in a crowded Packers passing attack, if it hasn't slowed him down yet, you can assume it probably won't. Marshall and Colston more or less cancel each other out as high-upside options with inconsistent results, so really this trade comes down to Nelson vs. Mathews. For me, it would depend on whether I needed the extra running back or not.
Would you drop Steve Johnson or Jake Ballard for Denarius Moore? Both are on my bench because I have Julio Jones, Wes Welker and Greg Jennings at wide receiver and Greg Olsen at tight end. -- Josh Charest (via Facebook)
SW: I'm not ready to drop Johnson yet. I understand he's averaging only 45.8 receiving yards with one touchdown over his last six games, fading along with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Bills have emphasized Fred Jackson more and more. But if the Bills honestly hope to contend this season, they'll need to have a second dimension to their offense. They'll need Fitzpatrick to do what he did over the first three weeks, when he averaged 280.3 passing yards. I'm not saying it'll happen, but if it does, Johnson is the most likely candidate to benefit considering his fortunes have risen and fallen with Fitzpatrick's over the last two years. He remains the team's clear No. 1.
Moore is anything but a clear No. 1. He has that kind of potential, as he showed by catching five passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns at San Diego last week. But in case you don't remember, he did the same thing back in Week 2, catching five passes for 146 yards and a touchdown at Buffalo. Then, as soon as Fantasy owners got on the bandwagon, he disappeared, and Darrius Heyward-Bey had his reign at the top of the depth chart. Then, Heyward-Bey gave way to Jacoby Ford, who had five catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in Week 9. Now, with Ford going down with a foot injury, we're back to Moore in the ever-revolving door that is the Raiders receiving corps.
It's the way the wide receiver position has gone in Oakland for several years now. Remember Louis Murphy? What about Chaz Schilens? If you don't, it's because each player's period of Fantasy relevance was so short-lived.
Of course, none of them had a quarterback as good as Carson Palmer, and none of them have gotten quite as much praise as Moore has, from both Palmer and coach Hue Jackson. I'll be the first to admit Moore is worth a shot just in case he's able to break the cycle. But I wouldn't want to cut Johnson for him.
So what about Ballard? Yeah, I can dig that. You don't need a backup tight end now that bye weeks are coming to an end, and it's not like Ballard is an emerging stud. He's had a few good games for the Giants, and he'll have a few more, but the world will go on with him on the waiver wire.
SW: It's something to consider for sure. Stafford's broken finger has gotten most of the blame for his four interceptions at Chicago last week, and Manning's best game this season (254 yards, four touchdown passes in Week 3) came against the same Eagles he's facing this week.
|1.||Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders||57|
|2.||Lance Ball, RB, Broncos||56|
|3.||Damian Williams, WR, Titans||37|
|4.||Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers||35|
|5.||Ed Dickson, TE, Ravens||27|
|6.||Vincent Brown, WR, Chargers||23|
|7.||Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders||22|
|8.||Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys||21|
|9.||Matt Leinart, QB, Texans||19|
|10.||Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons||19|
But if given the choice, I'd still lean ever so slightly toward Stafford.
Though Stafford would certainly be better off without the broken finger, you shouldn't jump to the conclusion that he's a terrible quarterback with it. He was playing with heavy winds in Chicago, which former Bears quarterback Jim Miller thinks contributed to at least one of his interceptions, and the Bears defense has been known to force its share of turnovers. Now that the finger has had another week to heal, Stafford should be in a much more favorable situation against a pathetic Panthers defense this season. True, the Panthers are statistically better against the pass than the run, but that's because teams know they can beat them with the run. The Lions can't beat anyone with the run, not with Maurice Morris in the backfield, so they'll be leaning on the arm of Stafford in a game they're expected to win.
So what's the downside to starting Manning? I'll admit it's not much, but a secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha isn't one to be taken lightly, no matter what John Skelton was able to do against it last week. The Eagles' defensive struggles have come mostly against the run, so if the Giants pull ahead early and the Eagles don't have Michael Vick (ribs) to bring them back, I could see Manning throwing less than usual. Ultimately, I think he'll have a good game, but I think the potential for a great game is higher for Stafford.
What should I do with
SW: What are you suggesting you do? Cut him? That'd be crazy. After missing most of three games, he's getting to the point where he could return from his mid-foot sprain any week now, and he was performing like a top-five running back before the injury.
Honestly, I don't see why you'd have any reason to regret the trade now. Stewart and Williams have been useless all season, and though Green has emerged as an every-week option as a rookie, Manningham has actually outscored him during the four weeks McFadden has been dealing with the injury. You've won this deal without McFadden even taking the field.
The fact you don't recognize it signals to me just how disenchanted McFadden owners have become with their early-round pick as they watch Michael Bush pile up rushing and receiving yards for the Raiders. But knowing the history of those two backs -- knowing that McFadden always gets hurt, Bush always does a fantastic job replacing him, and McFadden always regains the job when he's healthy -- I'm thinking Bush's performance is no threat to McFadden's job security. I'm thinking McFadden will be a Fantasy stud as soon as he gets back, and I'm thinking it'll happen within the next two weeks.
Right now, with his value at its lowest point, is the time to buy on him, not sell.
SW: It's at least worth considering. As important as quarterback depth is (as Schaub and Cassel owners have discovered), the starting lineup takes priority. Keep in mind, though, that by losing depth, you'd be losing the ability to play matchups at the position, so you'd prefer to hold on to the quarterback with the better chance of putting up relevant numbers on a week-to-week basis. To me, that's Manning, who has thrown for at least 250 yards in eight of his nine starts. Ryan too often takes a back seat to the running game, which too often makes him a liability to Fantasy owners.
Of course, as the 11th-ranked quarterback rather than the sixth-ranked quarterback, Ryan likely won't fetch as much on the trade market as Manning. Granted, you couldn't expect a No. 1 running back in return for either, but Ryan might not even land you a No. 2. Really, it depends on the level of desperation of the other owner. If he has nothing after Schaub or Cassel, then he might be willing to give up a Darren Sproles, Chris Johnson or Rashard Mendenhall (or an A.J. Green or Jordy Nelson at wide receiver). In a vacuum, though, Ryan's Fantasy value would be closer to that of a Victor Cruz or Mike Tolbert.
If that's not worth it to you, then you might be better off sticking with the two quarterbacks.