With a half of the NFL season in the books it is time for fantasy owners to get serious and bear down for what lies ahead. Some of you may be in pretty good shape, riding a high and having a good record, sitting back and waiting for the playoffs. Some of you are in the middle, every win and every loss are critical, and with every one yard gain you cringe, every dropped pass makes you scream, oh and that share time with RBs? Yes just makes you want to cripple that rookie who is stealing your man’s time. Others, well you are playing spoiler and trying to take others down. No matter where you are on this food chain, it never hurts to have a little more advice.
The article is called “Make or Break” and it is just that easy. I will go through players that can make your season, and those who seem destined to break it. If you have the “Make” guys keep a close eye on them and prepare a spot in your line up for them every week. The “Break” guys, well it is pretty easy to understand. The reason it starts getting tough is the factors of: 1) As an NFL team struggles, they try and groom new players and test them out which hurts playing time for the regulars. 2) When NFL teams are playing really well, and lock up playoff spots, they tend to take it easy on the stars to avoid injury. These factors can be killers, so watch the waiver wire, know your bench, and get ready for a wild second half. This is your cheat sheet! Good luck everyone.
Here are some “Make” players:
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Over his first 4 games, Freeman had just 5 TDs and averaged under 200 yards, while the Bucs offense struggled. Over the last 4 however, big stuff! Freeman has over 1,000 yards and 9 TDs and the Buccaneers seem to feel safer with him throwing the ball. They run decent too, so a balance, included with Freeman throwing more often near the end zone is helping. He is suddenly looking like the guy from 2010 over the guy from last year. If you are tight at QB, Freeman is available in some leagues, he’s a good pick right now.
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams: When we last saw Amendola on the field he was making dynamic catches in a game against the Cardinals, then an injury that some thought ended his year. However, zoom ahead a few weeks, and here is the little tough guy, practicing and ready for a comeback. The Rams will have a bye come week 9, and when they return they will have their top WR back. Before his injury he was averaging 6 catches and 80 yards, plus return yards and had 2 TDs. He will be active upon return, grab him or get ready to use him.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys: He looks to be back and healthy and with the way the Cowboys offense has struggled, he is back just in time. In week 8 he had 18 catches, yes 18 in a game against the New York Giants. Witten has always been a big catch numbers guy, and a nice red zone option. With lots of questions about who is the go to guy here, Witten is primed to snag that role.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Arizona Cardinals: If you are in a PPR league, and you need a good flex, watch the progress on Howling. He is the most versatile back on this team by far, and shows good explosiveness. Beanie Wells can return soon, but it should not hurt the time Howling spends on the field. He runs well, and should be getting more time as the Cardinals look for answers moving forward.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: He has been hurting many owners, the proof is in the numbers. However the fortune of McCoy may change very soon. Head coach Andy Reid is hinting at a change at QB, sending in the rookie Nick Foles over Michael Vick, which could and should mean many more carries and passes for McCoy. He had 2 TDs in week 8, and the Eagles realize the time has come to get him more involved. This week 9 match against a poor Saints defense should help kick start the offense.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans: Another guy that made owners cry over the first few weeks, Johnson has come on better the last few weeks. It seems with a veteran QB like Matt Hasselback running the offense teams can’t focus just on the run, and it helps Johnson find some space. He has rushed for close to 400 yards and has had 8 catches and 2 TDs as well over his last 3 games. Now is the time to use him, you could do a lot worse.
Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos: 5 TDs over his last 4 weeks is a telling sign that Peyton Manning has faith in Decker. We know they run well now, and have loads of guys who can play here, but Decker is looking like the guy that Manning trust with timing patterns and red zone catches. We know he is a good ball player, as he showed even with Tim Tebow at QB. So why not trust him with one of the all time best at QB? The other plus, he looks good in any match up as defenses have to focus on the ability of Thomas to go deep.
Miami Dolphins Defense: Usually the smart thing is to play to the match ups, but this defense has been special of late. Their 120 points allowed is third best in the league, and their 22 sacks is good for sixth. They swarm to the ball and play aggressive, and have been one of the better squads the last few weeks. As I said watch the match ups, but grab them and be ready to use them.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers: His name is all the buzz in Fantasy Football, and it is clear as to why. Over his last 3 games Cobb has caught 20 passes for 220 yards and 3 TDs. He also does some stuff in the return game, and has blazing speed, which makes him a threat to always go all the way every time he touches the ball. Right now with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson banged up, and a lack of faith in other options, Cobb has become the best bet on a very good team.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: His numbers early this year were brutal, but over the last 3 weeks he has run for close to 240 yards, which is more than half of his seasons total, also 11 catches and a TD, which also come close to half his totals. Let’s face it, he is a dynamic talent, but needs help to get rolling along. QB Carson Palmer has improved which of course helps McFadden. He is making progress, so run with him.
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Over 100 yards in both of his games he started the last 2 weeks is a good start, and his competition is not only hurting physically, but hurting their chances of playing time. Another great stat is a lusty 5.2 yards per carry, on a team that loves to run the ball. Now he just needs to find the end zone, and he will be that mid-season pick up you dream of finding.
Darryl Richardson, RB, St. Louis Rams: The Rams are still learning who they are, and Richardson may be a huge part of that new regime. As the trade deadline looms there are rumors of longtime RB Steven Jackson being traded, which may help him as well. Over his last 3 weeks he has rushed for 170 yards and also hauled in 10 catches, head coach Jeff Fisher likes this kid, and it may lead to the number 1 spot here.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: The worries of too much work, and last years knee injury are well behind him, so now is the time for Peterson to be a leader for your Fantasy team. Long runs, hard runs, and catches have him very active, and with the Vikings still in the playoff hunt, they will need to lean hard on Peterson. He has even found the end zone the last 2 weeks. Looks like the Peterson of old is coming back!
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Staggering numbers here. Over the last 4 weeks: 31 catches, over 460 yards as well. Sure, he only has 2 TDs this season, but in a PPR league Wayne has not slowed down, and while some still worry about going with him, it is a mistake to bench him. Wayne is still Wayne, whether he has Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning, as long as Curtis Painter isn’t coming back.
Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans: If you are in a league that require a tight end, then you have to roll with Daniels. After a slow start he has come on strong with 20 catches and 3 TDs over his last 4 games. We know Arian Foster gets the majority of touches, but Daniels has been real good and can make your team complete at TE.
Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins: Holy flex player! His numbers are not overwhelming, but over the last 4 games he has 4 TDs and gets some looks in this offense. They use him a lot in the slot, which is not usually his fit, but they are finding ways to get him the ball, and he makes the most out of his touches. You all may know that teams are usually short that one guy, Moss makes an excellent plug in for just that type of situation, and he should continue to be busy.
Fred Jackson/CJ Spiller, RBs, Buffalo Bills: The most reliable time share in the NFL, it is hard not to use either one of these guys. Both catch passes, and are used in Buffalo’s new short game, and both run well. Jackson runs with great power and Spiller great speed, and they are both double-digit scorers pretty much every week. The team as a whole may not be super, but these 2 backs sure are worth it.
Here are some Breaks:
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: With each passing week I hear phrases like “you can’t possibly bench Megatron”. Really? Maybe we should check again. Just 6 catches on 15 targets and under 40 yards in the last 2 weeks is awfully scary and he only has just 1 TD this year, and not thrown by Matthew Stafford. Sure for a while we could blame the bad offense, but last week they racked up yards and points and still not much from Mega. He is also playing with a bad knee, against the fabled Madden Curse, and poor confidence. Watch him carefully because he can shatter your team.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: The rumors are buzzing through Philly much like the winds of Hurricane Sandy that Vick may be headed to the bench. It would be a justified move as well as he leads the NFL in turnovers by a QB, and seems to have lost a step as far as running. He is not getting much, and the time may be here to use another QB. The Eagles are sure planning on it.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins: As a guy that owns Bush in every league this hurts to say, but his production has been limited. Suddenly he sees Daniel Thomas become the red zone guy and is getting less carries each week. Has it been justified? Not really. He still averages 4.5 yards per carry and has good hands. Last week he was productive, but seems to be losing favor in Miami. Grab Daniel Thomas if you can, he seems to be taking over.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: More owners seem to be benching him, and it is not the worst idea right now. He has just 1 total TD over the last 3 weeks, and only 8 total for the year, an average of 1 per week. He is losing confidence and is losing control of his team, which is loaded with too many RBs and not enough top flight WRs. Newton is trouble right now for your team.
Arizona Cardinals Defense: Remember in week 4, when everyone was running around trying to grab this defense? What happened? Well they were handled in week 8 by the 49ers and are not making big plays right now. Much of it can be blamed on a bad offense that limits the time they get to recover, and also teams have caught up to what they bring. Right now it is very uneventful, and you can do much better.
BenJarvis Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: The last 4 weeks have not been kind to this “Law Firm”. Green-Ellis is averaging just 56 yards per game, hasn’t sniffed the end zone, and is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. There was doubt coming into this season how he would fare as the primary back, and it looks as if he is slowing down. I realize it is hard right now in Fantasy land to find lots of good RB play, but this guy surely isn’t a good option.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants: Since his injury after week 2, Nicks has been eased back into this offense. Very eased I may add, with just 12 catches over his last 3 weeks, and he hasn’t gone over 50 yards in any contest. Victor Cruz owns this show now, and there is many options to work with. Nicks still gets started in plenty of leagues, but the time has come to wait for him to be more active before using him with any confidence.
Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins: I warned all of you that after his huge blow up game that it was time to sell. Since that monster 12 catch and 253 yard day with a TD against the Cardinals, Hartline has just 8 catches for 100 yards and no TDs in 3 games. He has never been a huge numbers guy, and for me I think that guys like Bess and Bush are better options for pass catches. Also the rumor that they may trade for Dwayne Bowe won’t help.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Now don’t get me wrong, I love Fitz, but for what you expect for him you are getting far less. His QBs are struggling, and for it he has just 1 TD over the last 4 weeks, and that came against the woeful Bills defense. He will get some, but the some he is getting isn’t good enough for what you expect, and the time to bench him may be here.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: If you have the option, you may think of trading him if someone will fall for it. Over the last 2 weeks he has just 44 yards on 17 carries, and with Peyton Hillis back, he may get used even less. When asked this past week about his 5 carry workload, head coach Romeo Crennel simply said “I’m not exactly sure.”We were rotating our backs in there. Hillis was back and he was able to get some carries. He was somewhat effective. When a guy’s effective, we kind of stay with him a little bit.” That sounds nothing like a guy who is confident in who he has. Hillis will steal carries and hurt Charles owners badly.
Martellus Bennett, TE, New York Giants: Where have you gone TD man? Early in the season Bennett was getting a TD per week and was active in this offense. Well times have changed, and he has not scored a TD since week 3 and his catch totals have been quite average. Bennett came here with the reputation as a blocking TE and he is starting to look more like one each week.
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans: Enough already. Just 13 catches and 1 TD over the last 4 weeks is poor enough, and now word of yet another possible injury. Britt just hasn’t panned out to be what many thought he would be over the last few seasons, and now the time to not only bench him, but let him be free and use the roster spot for someone else.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Denver Broncos: When the season started many thought that Peyton Manning would go wild with Tamme being that he knew his styles from the days at Indy. Now he is just an extra, and not getting much. In the last 4 weeks he is averaging 4 catches and about 40 yards per game, and knows nothing about the end zone. He is not even the top TE on his own team anymore, so stop trying to force his will.
Andrew Hawkins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: He looked like a logical answer to be the number 2 choice for the Bengals early this season, but since then has become average at best. Just 15 catches and under 150 yards over the last 4 weeks with 0 TDs is more than enough evidence to let you know it is time to stop reaching with this guy. The Bengals have 2 prime targets in Gresham and Green, if you don’t own either of them, lay off the Bengals.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets: Hopefully you aren’t fooled by that 161 yard week he had a few weeks ago, because that game aside he has only 340 yards in his other 7, an average of under 50 yards per game. He had a TD and 6 catches last week, but this is a bad offense right now, and he has never been a big time back. Many of you drafted him fairly early, and want to stay faithful but it is so hard right now.
Greg Zuerlein, K, St. Louis Rams: Now I love “LegaTron” but he is lacking chances right now. In week 8 in London, head coach Jeff Fisher passed on 3 chances to kick field goals of around 50 yards due to how far behind his team was. The Rams are not moving the ball very well, and his chances are getting less and less. From a fantasy stand point he hasn’t gotten over double digits in several weeks. Yes, a kicker won’t make a huge difference, but things can get close enough where 5-10 points can really matter.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Decoy much? Yes he got that big contract, but he done little to explode for Fantasy owners. He has just 1 TD this season, and over the past 4 weeks he has had an interesting pattern of catches of 4,7,4,7 and for the yardage under 50 or over 80. He is a decent PPR reach, but not a stellar WR1 or WR2 right now. He has to be killing some owners for sure.
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans: He is still a good game manager, and a decent QB, but the Texans don’t lean on him near as much as they used too. Just 10 TDs in 7 games this season, which is better than just 1 per game, and his yardage has been pedestrian. It is a team that moves the ball with good defense and a nice running game, so the time to use Schaub will be limited as a bye week cover, which also are near the end. Keep him as a nice back up but don’t try and ride him to a Fantasy title.
Keep an eye on some names as the trade deadline looms:
Tim Tebow, QB, New York Jets: With his ability to run, and a decent arm he can be worth something to a team that really needs a working QB. He isn’t gold, but he can certainly challenge the numbers in Fantasy of some regulars if moved.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: Being on this team the nickname “Battering Ram: was fitting, but a possible move could mean a nice stretch run for Jackson before he fades away into an aged once-was back. He can still play, but only a move to a contender can help his value now.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers: His big contract makes him hard to trade, but a change of scene is exactly what he may need to show signs of the back he was a few years ago. The in and out and not knowing when style he plays in Carolina hurts him a great deal, and the time to get out is now.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: Loads of talent, and a real bad situation here. Bowe makes big catches, can get into the end zone and is a prime WR for any team. He is due for a new contract which will have him most likely out of KC next season anyway so now is the time to try and cash in on a trade if possible. Some teams fighting for a playoff spot could use him badly, and I see him as the most likely player to be traded.
Here is some news and updates for your fantasy team. Keep a watch on these guys and use them accordingly. The stretch run is here, and every win is crucial.
Good luck owners!
I have now joined Twitter, so if you would like to ask any questions or need any advice feel free to reach out to my personal account, @JPshark71.
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