Realities and Illusions for Week 12
It makes a lot of sense that Thanksgiving is a big weekend for football (both NFL and college). For reasons both good and bad, the two most stereotypically American things are football and Thanksgiving, so the marriage just makes sense. But with all of that food—both day of and copious leftovers, plus the oft-forgotten mass takeout that comes at least once that weekend in response to being all cooked out— it’s entirely possible you fell into a food coma or had some food-based hallucinations. While I can’t do anything about you visualizing Lamar Jackson as a man made out of cranberry sauce, I can help decipher what from Week 12 was a reality and what was an illusion.
It appears that we finally have some clarity in one of the more frustrating Fantasy backfields, and at a perfect time to possibly save some playoff-bubble teams: Josh Adams is the lead back in Philadelphia. In the Eagles’ 25-22 win over the Giants, Adams had almost three times as many carries as the next-closest back, Corey Clement, rushing 22 times to Clements’ five. He may not have produced like an RB1 with that volume—he had 84 yards (3.8 YPC) and a score—but it’s exceedingly rare when you can find a lead back this late in the season. With a mostly-friendly schedule coming up, Adams could be a late-season savior.
It took an exceedingly long time, long enough that you would be forgiven for dropping him, but everyone’s favorite physical embodiment of LMFAO’s “Sorry for Party Rocking” Rob Gronkowski is not back on the field, but healthier than he was at any point since Week One. While he only had three catches for 56 yards (plus a score, which I’ll get to in a moment), he was also a big part of the reason why the Patriots had their first 200-yard rushing game as a team since the kickoff of the too-long Jonas Gray mania in 2014, such as on this play. Of course, he was his usual Gronk self by going completely over and through Morris Claiborne for his touchdown catch. The big man is back, and not only should it help your team if you own him, but also other Patriots like Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, the running backs, and even Tom Brady should get a boost by his presence.
Rookie Runners Rush Right
It was against a bad defense for the second straight week, but it sure looks like John Harbaugh and Co. have figured out how to use Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards, even if the former is still struggling as a passer. Joe Flacco is returning to practice this week, but over the last two games, Jackson has been something Flacco is not: exciting. While that doesn’t always translate to good (see: Johnny Manziel), it’s gone well for the Ravens so far, with the quarterback picking up 71 yards and a score on the ground while throwing for 178 yards and a touchdown (plus two interceptions) in Week 12. As for Edwards, the undrafted free agent didn’t have Alex Collins to contend with this week (he was out with an injury) and turned in his second 100-yard game in a row, picking up 118 yards on 23 carries. With the Ravens still on the outside of the playoffs, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Harbaugh stick with the hot hands, at least in an attempt to save his job, if not the season. Starting Jackson will remain a huge risk, especially as the defenses improve, but Edwards is looking like a safe Flex at minimum the rest of the season.
The Rodgers Machine is Broken
Something is up with Aaron Rodgers. Yes, Mike McCarthy’s stale offense and poor clock management looks like it will finally get him fired this season (no matter how much you believe this story or not), but he hasn’t been the only one at fault this season. Rodgers has simply been missing throws, and we’ve reached the point of it being a trend, not an aberration. There was a very obvious crack last week, when he bounced a crucial third and short pass to a wide open receiver. And then this week, he had Davante Adams wide open in the end zone and just overthrew him. Because of injuries, but also just his level of play, Rodgers has not lived up to his lofty expectations, both real and in Fantasy. There will be games going forward where the smart play may be to start someone like Jameis Winston over him; it will just take a lot of guts to pull the trigger. His struggles also put a damper on the secondary options in Green Bay that seemed like they were breaking out, especially Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
In ESPN standard scoring, Josh Allen had the third-most Fantasy points by a quarterback this week. And while the Bills Twitter got a very solid burn in, Allen is still just kind of a walking interception and also, yes, trash. Buffalo’s tall quarterback completed just eight passes in Week 12. Yes, one of those was a chance to show off his cannon and resulted in a 75-yard touchdown, but do you want to put your faith in a player who, ironically enough, looks a lot like the next Blake Bortles? The 99 yards rushing may portend more running for Allen to come, but not more success. Allen is not “hitting his stride” or becoming a top Fantasy option for the rest of the season; he’s just trying to trick you. Yes, you.
Seahawks Fly… For Now
Seattle has spent a lot of time this season deciding that fun, new football wasn’t for them, instead choosing to return to just running the football a lot and underutilizing their best player. But against the Panthers this week, Russell Wilson finally threw for over 300 yards, for the first time this season. In fact, it was the first time since Week One that he topped even 250 yards. However, this isn’t a signal that the Seahawks are going back to throwing the ball. For one thing, they apparently have Spider-Man as a running back. But for another, running the ball has been a constant theme in Seattle stretching back to the preseason. Even though you can maybe blame part of their down season on it, I wouldn’t expect Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer to change their ways after one game.
Late Season Austin Ekeler Part II: Electric Boogaloo (This works twice)
Melvin Gordon is injured again, suffering an MCL sprain during the Chargers’ Week 12 blowout of the Cardinals. The glimmer of hope for Chargers fans and Gordon owners alike is that it is not to the same knee that he had hamstring issues with in Week Seven. On top of that, for a team searching for a playoff berth like the 8-3 Chargers or your 6-6 Fantasy team, it appears that Austin Ekeler could be here to save the day. The second-string running back was the main benefactor of Philip Rivers seemingly deciding to chase the consecutive completions record, as he had 10 catches for 68 yards. He was, however, the one Charger to have an incomplete pass thrown his way (it kept Rivers from having sole possession of the record). He also added 57 yards on seven carries, putting him over 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time since Week One. However, don’t expect Ekeler’s Week 12 performance to be an indicator of what he can do with Gordon out. When Gordon missed Week Seven, Ekeler had just 68 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches. And while he had a strong performance this week, the Cardinals are horrendous against running backs. You might have to start Ekeler if you’re a Gordon owner, but don’t expect what he did in Week 12 in Week 13.
More Like a Sous Chef
Dalvin Cook put up a very solid Fantasy day this week, scoring 16.6 ESPN standard PPR points, good for 16th among all running backs. However, those numbers are pretty empty. He had just 29 yards on 10 carries, and was out-carried by Latavius Murray by one (though that may have been to keep Cook off the field while they ran out the clock to make sure he didn’t get hurt on a meaningless play). He did do some damage through the air, picking up 47 yards and a touchdown on three catches. But overall, it was no better than a slight step forward for the oft-injured back. With matchups against similarly-ranked rushing defenses in the Patriots and Seahawks coming up, it will be an uphill battle for Cook to move from being a touchdown-dependent option.