September 17, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) runs out before the game against the Denver Broncos at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 27-21. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Fantasy Football Mailbag: 10/5/2012

Sep 22, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) walks off the field after the Atlanta Falcons beat the Chargers 27-3 at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Need help with preparing for your fantasy football league? The Fantasy Guru is here once again to give you a few tips on how to play the crazy game of fantasy football.

As we roll into October, we’re starting to see more and more injuries impact on NFL teams and bye weeks giving headaches to fantasy owners as well. That’s what the Fantasy Mailbag is here for – to answer your questions and provide what guidance can be delivered. Let’s get to it.

Q: You’ve been a big doubter in Ryan Mathews from day 1 and now he’s lost his spot at the top of the depth chart. How should fantasy players react to what’s happening with the Chargers running game – Jack Leonard from Colorado Springs, Colorado

A: I’m going to be frank here – I didn’t like Ryan Mathews when he was drafted, I didn’t like the constant hype for a running back who was always hurt and had made little impact on the NFL scene and I certainly didn’t like how people continued to give him credit as this season got underway despite his collarbone break in preseason. Am I happy to have the doubts vindicated? Of course – but now I think most people are going way too far.

Before the depth chart news broke out, I had Jackie Battle 26th in this week’s RB rankings and Ryan Mathews 37th despite going up against the porous New Orleans Saints. My main reasoning for this ranking was pretty simple – I just don’t have faith in the Chargers offense as a whole and I firmly believe they’re a team that is lost when it comes down to offensive identity. It is nigh impossible to predict what they will do week to week and I’d rather stay well away from the Chargers running game if I possibly can.

However, I also think it is completely foolish to simply abandon all hope on Ryan Mathews as many are doing. I may not believe he’s a great running back but I don’t believe his fantasy funeral has happened yet either. There will be better days for Ryan Mathews ahead and I expect him to be a decent bye week filler or possible flex play later this season. Just do what Chris Johnson owners have done – sit tight and wait for the dust to settle before making any rash decisions that you can’t undo.

Q: I am so confused about what to do with the Buffalo Bills running backs. What’s your take? – Luke from Cameron, North Carolina.

A: I had to give this one quite a bit of thought because I am a big fan of both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. In fact, back in mid June I wrote about how C.J. Spiller could be a massive break-out candidate in 2012 and how he needed to step up in 2012. Now let’s give credit where credit is due – Fred Jackson has been spectacular these past couple of years despite issues with injuries, competition and his team’s failure to play good football at times. However, I do think the tread on the tyres is starting to wear thin and that Spiller’s talent is going to see him through in the end despite Jackson’s recent contract extension – an extension I think had more to do with paying him for past service than anything else.

You guys like time travel? Come on, let’s go on a trip. Let me take you back to the year 2008. The World Financial Crisis had just hit, General Motors had reported that they’d lost $38.7 billion the previous year while oil had hit the record high of $147 per barrel. The first Macbook Air had been released, the Hollywood Writer’s strike had caused the entertainment industry to shut down and Flo Rida’s song Low was the biggest hit of the year.

In that same year, we had a situation developing in Jacksonville as long time running back legend Fred Taylor was in his 11th season with the Jags but was finding himself challenged by a third year pocket rocket by the name of Maurice Jones-Drew who the team had drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft to replace the Jacksonville vet. Taylor was clearly beginning to slow down and struggled to put up decent numbers all year while Jones-Drew was coming into his element as a third down back. MJD ended that season with a career high 62 receptions for 565 yards and also had 197 carries for 824 yards and 12 TDs despite drawing only three game starts. Next thing you knew, Taylor was gone for Jacksonville on his way to two years with the New England Patriots and Maurice Jones-Drew found himself as one of the premier featured all-around running backs in the NFL. For me, this is the best comp to how I think the Bills backfield will play out this year and into the future.

Q: Here’s an easy one – I was offered Frank Gore for Alfred Morris straight up. I have to take Gore right? – Nathan Winfold from Fort Wayne, Indiana

A: When you first look at it, this one does look pretty easy. Frank Gore continues to impress despite having a whole host of potential competition behind him in the 49ers backfield and while Alfred Morris has been ripping it up also he is a Shanahan running back on a Redskins team that has all sorts of issues and is a pretty good sell-high candidate.

With that said, stop and take stock for a second. The Redskins have the second best rushing attack in the NFL – Kansas City leads the way thanks to Jamaal Charles huge 244 yard game a couple of weeks ago – and when you look at Alfred Morris’ skills and background he matches right up to the character of a Mike Shanahan special as the running back who comes from nowhere and has one of the most explosive seasons in the league. Would I take Frank Gore in this deal? Probably – but if you like to gamble and you think you need a bit of luck to win your fantasy league, you might just be better off sticking with Morris and crossing your fingers.

Q: Roddy White and Julio Jones should be the best WR duo in fantasy with Julio as the #1 but somehow Roddy has been the lead and Julio has struggled. Do you think this continues? – Rod from Livingston, Texas

A: Word out of Atlanta is that Julio Jones has been having trouble with a hand injury that has caused him problems. He has looked pretty good with his route running as a whole but it seems he just needs more time to come back. I’m going to continue to rank him high simply because he’s one of the best receiving threats in the NFL and I doubt we get enough on this situation to sway us either way – the Falcons tend to be very tight-lipped regarding this stuff.

To the other part of your question, I’m not all that surprised to see Roddy performing so well. No matter who is playing opposite him, he’s still Roddy White and he’s still a highly talented receiver in his own right. I do think his production could dip when Julio is fully healthy and there will be weeks when he disappears entirely due to Julio having a massive game but to be honest I have even more faith in Roddy now than I did prior to Julio Jones being drafted.

Q: Cam Newton the 17th ranked QB this week??? Are you kidding me!?!?!?! – Jordan Young from Charlotte, North Carolina

A: Normally I wouldn’t answer an angry email like this – the above question is somewhat abridged and edited for profanity – but I thought this would be a good chance to look not only at the idea of trending players but also at how match-ups are reflected in fantasy rankings.

Most fantasy analysts will freely admit they get things wrong a lot. I myself have been wrong a number of times already this season – just ask anyone who read my prediction of how Atlanta’s season would go – but when it comes right down to it we rank as best we can how we think things will go. Some ranks are statements about a player’s struggles, some are based on match-ups but most rankings tend to be the safest possible because the more that you buck the trend, the more you’re going to alienate your readers.

This week I took a strong stand on Cam Newton for multiple reasons. He had a decent fantasy day last week but watching tape of the game I could see that the same problems were there as showed in the disaster against the Giants. Cam is still trying to force passes, still not making the best reads and still having issues with protection – although his offensive line certainly performed better against a weaker rush in week 4.

Then there is the match-up factor. This week Cam finds himself up against the highly underrated but very dangerous Seahawks defense who made Aaron Rodgers look like a human pin cushion in the contested Monday Night Murder game. What has been lost in the fallout from that game in that the Green Bay Packers would never have been in the situation that lead to the awful Golden Tate TD had they been able to hold off the Seahawks pass rush. Cam Newton isn’t as good as Aaron Rodgers, arguably has an even worse offensive line than Green Bay and has a far less talented receiving corps. I expect him to have a bad day on Sunday against Seattle.


That’s all for this week. As always, you can send your questions for the Fantasy Mailbag to [email protected] and maybe get included a future edition. Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter @chrissmithsz as I’m usually around on Sundays to answer last minute questions, keep you on top of all the late breaking news and provide a bit of commentary on the day’s games so feel free to enter the conversation.

Until next time, this is the Fantasy Guru signing off.

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