It's playoff time! Apparently, C.J. Spiller does not want you to enjoy it. It wouldn’t be the fantasy postseason without major roster dilemmas, and Spiller provided a doozy on Sunday.
After five single-digit fantasy outings in his last six games, Spiller sprang to life against Atlanta, rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Of course, it wasn't all positive: He also re-aggravated his perpetually injured left ankle, hence Fred Jackson’s 11 carries. What's more, two runs (a 77-yarder and a 36-yarder) made up the bulk of Spiller's production. He was held to three yards or fewer on nine of his carries by one of the worst run defenses in the league, and next week’s opponent, the Bucs, boast a solid run-stopping unit. I bet some Spiller owners wish he'd posted one of usual 8/20/0 lines, which would have allowed them to confidently walk away at last.
Is Spiller back, or was his fruitful outing in Toronto a one-time thing, buoyed by a night on the town with Rob Ford? Will Spiller be able to handle Tampa’s stout run defense? And how does Jackson factor into all of this? These are the questions owners must answer this week, whether they like it or not, because the postseason doesn’t reward indecision. I’ll get back to you on Thursday with a final ruling on Spiller. In the meantime, let's recap the final week of the fantasy regular season.
It's not exactly a secret that the NFL is continuing to move away from its running-friendly roots. Through Week 11, this has been the most pass-happy season in league history. Teams are averaging 26.9 rushing attempts per game, which would be the first time NFL teams would fail to hit 27 running plays per game. Receptions per game are also at an all-time high — NFL teams are averaging 21.9 completions per game and 239.6 passing yards per game, which would both be league records. Now 69.9 percent of yards from scrimmage come on passing plays; just wait till Andy Reid and I throw a party when that baby goes over 70 percent!
Fewer run plays would normally suggest that each individual running play would be more effective; as passing plays become more prevalent and teams begin to build their defenses around stopping the pass, rushing should theoretically become more efficient as passing becomes less efficient (even if the two paths never meet). That hasn't been the case this season, with runners averaging a mere 4.1 yards per carry, the lowest figure since 2007.
The lack of efficiency in 2013 extends to many of 2012’s star backs. It seems like every superstar running back has either experienced a notable decline in efficiency, struggled to stay healthy, or both. I count 24 backs who received 100 or more carries in 2012 and have received that many in 2013. Of those 24, nearly half (11) have lost a half-yard or more off their average yards per carry from last season. Just three — DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and LeSean McCoy — are averaging a half-yard per carry more than they did a year ago.
What's ailing those players, though? Is there a consistent problem that stands out?
Don’t be alarmed if you notice a preponderance of C.J. Spiller jerseys in your neighborhood on Thursday night. Spiller was easily the most frequently cited player in the fantasy horror stories you guys sent me after Week 8, and thus should make a wonderful Halloween costume for those looking to strike fear into the hearts of others. In fact, there’s no shortage of costume ideas when it comes to underperforming or injured football players, as evidenced by the following responses.
Fantasy Horror Stories
WARNING: READER DISCRETION ADVISED.
@mattborcas last week I traded Forte for Marshall. You know the rest.
Joshua is right: I do know the rest. You do, too. But this is a house of horrors, not a house of sympathy, so let’s cover the rest in excruciating detail.
1. Joshua trades Matt Forte for Brandon Marshall.
2. Days later, Forte rushes for 91 yards, three touchdowns, and 28 fantasy points in Washington while Marshall posts one of his worst outings of the season.
Further probing revealed Joshua’s motives. In addition to Forte, he owned a robust stable of running backs (LeSean McCoy, Eddie Lacy, Stevan Ridley), and Randall Cobb’s fractured fibula more or less blew Joshua's receiving corps to smithereens. So while this deal was perfectly defensible given Joshua's needs, it’s hard not to wonder how much more Forte could’ve netted poor Joshua after Week 7, and that’s the type of thought that can haunt an owner for months. Years, even.
The following trade offer hit my inbox on Sunday morning: James Jones for Reggie Wayne. Given that all proposals are bound to tilt slightly in favor of the person proposing the deal, it seemed fair enough. I considered countering, but the combination of Jones's knee sprain and my bullishness on Indy's offense ultimately resulted in a flat-out rejection. Wayne tore his ACL 12 hours later, so apologies for sounding a bit disenchanted with the 2013 fantasy season. Between HOYER THE DESTROYER's untimely death, Tom Brady's increasing irrelevance, and the Wayne debacle, this has been a difficult year.
Of course, misery loves company, which is why I'm soliciting your fantasy horror stories for next Tuesday's Halloween-themed post. Leave them in the comments or tweet them to @mattborcas, and I promise to deliver the spookiest football column ever. Well, aside from today's, which recommends Peyton Hillis as a waiver-wire pickup and is thus impossible to top on the scariness scale.
What is reality? I think Bill Belichick asked that at a press conference once, and it's a question I've been pondering mightily regarding Philip Rivers. In the corporeal sense, sure, I'll concede that he's real but is he actually fantasy's third-best player?
Chargers coach Mike McCoy has worked miracles before, but we're now beyond the season's quarter point, and this is usually when miracles start to die a slow and painful death. Mirages melt away, Lil Bow Wow loses his magical sneakers, and the Eagles call on Nick Foles to replace an injured Michael Vick.
For the record, I believe in Rivers, Jordan Cameron, Bad Eli Manning, Giovani Bernard, Kansas City's defense, and, of course, HOYER THE DESTROYER. On the flip side, I doubt the long-term viability of Michael Vick, Fred Jackson, DeMarco Murray, Julius Thomas, and, of course, Eddie Royal. What are some of your hot takes? Feel free to share them in the comments, but remember: The only way to determine whether reality's really real is with the passage of time.
As it stands now, the Tom Brady–Peyton Manning rivalry feels like a colossally rigged episode of Chopped. While Manning has received an assortment of first-rate ingredients with which to cook, Brady is forced to make chicken salad out of a spare tire, some stones, a rabid gerbil, and Rob Gronkowski’s bloodied forearm cast. This sucks for Brady, of course, but it makes for some incredibly entertaining television, especially when Brady single-handedly elevates that chicken shit into something passably gourmet. Sunday night in Atlanta was one of those times.
The greatest play in football history was not drawn up by Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, or Chip Kelly. It was diagrammed by a boy genius named Nubie in 1994 and is called The Annexation of Puerto Rico, a modern spin on the fumblerooski. (Naturally, Ron Rivera — who is a solid decade or two behind the curve on gridiron strategy — used it in 2011 against the Texans.)
While Nubie deserves all the credit in the world for devising such an unbeatable play, it’s telling that he did so in a cinematic classic, Duwayne Dunham’s Oscar-snubbed Little Giants, as opposed to reality. (Dunham is not Lena’s rambunctious little brother, but I like to pretend he is.) Without fail, everything works better in fiction than in real life, and likewise, your fantasy roster looks wayyyyy better now on paper/megapixels than it’ll prove to be this weekend. (EDIT: Unless you have Peyton Manning. Then your team is FLAWLESS.)
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next three and a half months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
I would say that the Chan Gailey era was a dark time for Buffalo, but really, after Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, and Dick Jauron, I guess darkness is relative. Doug Marrone, former Syracuse head coach and, more importantly, former Saints offensive coordinator, is the latest attempt at a worthy carrier of Marv Levy’s torch, and so far, Bills fans at least have to be pleased that the sins of the previous regime are slowly being purged.
In March, the Bills released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, he of the six-year, $59 million contract signed less than two years earlier. With their first pick in April’s draft, Buffalo drafted the man they hope to be their answer at that position — Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. And about a month ago, 40-year-old Doug Whaley replaced Buddy Nix — the man responsible for Fitzpatrick’s payday — as the team’s general manager.
But if Fitzpatrick is the most brutal crime committed by old management, C.J. Spiller is the black mark of the old coaching staff. Spiller, taken ninth overall in the 2010 draft out of Clemson, was used as a situational player for his season and a half in Buffalo. A punt returner in both 2010 and 2011, Spiller didn’t hit double-digit carries until a Week 10 injury to starting running back Fred Jackson gave Spiller the nod for the rest of the season. Spiller did well enough with the work — averaging 5.19 yards per carry over the final six games — to earn the 1a role in Buffalo’s two-man running game heading into last season. What followed was enough to drive Bills fans completely insane.
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit a preview for each of that weekend's games. The best preview from each game will be selected and combined with the others into one comprehensive guide, and points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do, too.
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit a preview for each of that weekend's games. The best preview from each game will be selected and combined with the others into one comprehensive guide, where points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do too.
Buccaneers at Cowboys
The Bucs are legit. They fell victim to a little Eli magic this Sunday, but I think we all know Tony Romo is about as magical as David Blaine. (Sorry, buddy. Standing in an ice cave for two days isn't magic.) The 'Boys haven't been able to stop anyone, so I like Doug Martin a lot this week; I think he finishes as a top-10 RB. Vinnie Jackson is always a boom-or-bust play, but an interesting sleeper in this game is Dallas Clark. America's Team of 1992 has given up TDs to TEs (that's a weird phrase) in two straight weeks, and Clark is better than either Martellus Bennett or Anthony McCoy (my apologies to the McCoy family, who may be the only people who knew who Anthony was before this week).
The home team's offensive possessions in Sunday's Bills-Chiefs game saw two units traveling in opposite directions. On one side was Bills running back C.J. Spiller, the speed demon from Clemson who has emerged as a surprise superstar during the first two weeks of this young NFL season. Opposite him was a Chiefs defense that had just allowed 40 points to the Falcons and was about to get 35 more put on them by Spiller and his teammates. Spiller produced his second monstrous performance in as many weeks, running for 123 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries while adding in 47 more yards on three receptions.
Whenever a big game like this happens for a back, it's always a combination of effective offense and ineffective defense, but the important thing is figuring out which side contributed more to the effort and why. In this case, we want to figure out how the Bills are using Spiller, what they did to prevent the Chiefs from getting near him, and whether the Chiefs can do anything about it in future weeks. Let's try to figure out if C.J. Spiller and the Chiefs' porous defense are each for real.