Fantasy Football: Thursday Night Takeaways

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson
Oct 17 2013 Phoenix AZ USA Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson 3 runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals in the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium Mark J Rebilas USA TODAY Sports

The week seven edition of Thursday Night Football featured an NFC West showdown, with the Seahawks heading to Arizona. There weren’t too many surprises from a real football slant. Seattle is and remains a legitimate front runner to represent the NFC in Super Bowl this season, and the Cardinals, well, they’re the Cardinals. Ultimately, Seattle pulled away in the second half and left with a 34-22 victory, but there were a few fantasy takeaways to take away from last night.

The Curious Case of Russell Wilson

There is absolutely zero doubt in my mind that Wilson is one of the brightest burning young stars in the league today, as evidenced by his performance last week (18 of 29 for 235 yards and three passing touchdowns). He has all of the skills you want your quarterback (and team leader) to have in carrying your real life football team. Unfortunately, real life football and fantasy football don’t always intersect on a consistent basis.

Wilson entered last night ranked number 12 overall in standard scoring for quarterbacks despite only having two top 12 finishes over the first six weeks. He’s completed 20 or more passes in just five of his 23 career starts, with only one 300 yard passing game. His ceiling (which is in the 20 point area of last night) is completely dependent on passing touchdowns week to week. That may sound silly when talking fantasy quarterbacks, but he needs a high volume of scores to compensate for his lack of attempts and yardage that is hindered by how the real Seattle football team is built.

They way Seattle is constructed will ultimately cap Wilson week to week in our fake football game. Seattle has arguably the best defense in the league; they’ve only surrendered more than two offensive touchdowns twice in their past 15 regular season games. Over that same time frame, only three times has the opposition scored more than 20 points.

Playing off of their tremendous defense, they are able to establish one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. Seattle ranks inside the top five in rushing attempts, yards, first downs and ground touchdowns per game and are one of only two teams (San Francisco) who run the ball over 50 percent of their offensive plays (52.5 percent).  The defense and offensive mindset create a fantasy cocktail where Seattle just doesn’t play in any high scoring affairs that us owners on the fake football circuit salivate over each Sunday.

He still has his legs, rushing for 30 or more yards in nine of his past 15 games, which can still act as a safety net for his output, but has failed to run for a touchdown yet this season and ran for only four in 2012 (three in one game). Percy Harvin will also be back sooner than later from hip surgery, providing a dynamic addition to Wilson’s armory, but the Seahawks aren’t going to be changing their stripes (feathers?) in their identity as an offense, just add new wrinkles to it. If you own Wilson, you will likely continue to plug him in, but he’s best suited for being rostered on teams that are strong at other positions as you will continue to get uneven production from a fantasy level.

The Arizona Backfield

Bruce Arians doesn’t care about your fantasy team. Although Andre Ellington continued to play an even amount or more snaps than Rashard Mendenhall for the third consecutive week, it was Mendy who was fantasy relevant last night. He carried 13 times for 22 yards and a score while Ellington had only five total touches for 13 yards.

This situation is a poor man’s version of the Cincinnati backfield, where one player is completely more efficient than the other. As is the case in both backfields, the veteran has a role that appears to be set in stone barring injury.

Ellington has been a FPPRR standout, accumulating more yards from scrimmage (369) than Mendenhall (347) despite having 54 fewer touches overall. Despite averaging only 3.1 yards per carry, Mendy has led Arizona in attempts in every game this season while Ellington has had no more than seven in any game. The snaps are consistent, but the touches in the run game are not for speed back. Ellington continues to be a PPR flex option only while Mendenhall is barely a blip on any radar that needs short touchdowns to contribute. Until one takes over completely, be prepared for a maddening fantasy situation.

Buy Michael Floyd

It hasn’t been extremely exciting, but Floyd has been the same fantasy player as Larry Fitzgerald this season minus a few scores. After last night, in which he snagged five balls for 58 yards versus the best secondary in the game, Floyd has the same number of receptions (32) as Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald barely edges Floyd in yardage, 422 to 416. Floyd has also led the Cardinals in receiving in four of their seven games.

Over their past four games, with Fitz limited, Floyd has more receptions (21 to 17), more yards (263-245) and only one fewer touchdown. The touchdowns should be on their way, as well. During his time in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, the receiver playing in Floyd’s role in the Arians offense (think Mike Wallace and T.Y. Hilton) has scored seven or more touchdowns.

The difference is that owners who have Floyd likely have a few other strong receiving options, allowing him to be a peripheral contributor. Owners who took Fitz in the third round have been forced to endure the roller coaster ride that has been his hamstrings.

If you own Fitzgerald, you don’t have to sell; both guys can contribute to fantasy teams based on the volume of this passing game. The Cardinal receiver trending up however, is Floyd, and he comes a lot cheaper. For teams that are already strong record wise, these are the kind of buys that help your end of the season roster reach fantasy gold. The time to strike is now.

author avatar
Rich Hribar Fantasy Football Analyst
Rich Hribar is a husband, father, sports meteorologist and a slave to statistics. A lifelong sports fan and fantasy gamer. Follow @LordReebs