A rising tide might lift all boats, but a tidal wave of discontent can sink those vessels — even the ones that once seemed invincible, immune from occasionally choppy waters.
The Chicago Bears’ unsightly collapse brings into our weekly equation something that an algorithm can’t process. Machines don’t understand total and complete dysfunction. They can’t account for the insidious effects of a team-destroying lack of confidence, even in an offensive system that once seemed destined to bring fantasy footballers many years of statistical goodness.
We saw the fantasy impact of the team’s breakdown during Sunday night’s debacle, in which the Packers did anything and everything they wanted to Chicago’s woeful defense and their suddenly toothless offense. Brandon Marshall was the only Bear to escape with a big stat line in a game that saw three quarters of garbage time for Chicago’s offense. Now Marshall is injured, creating more uncertainty for an offensive unit in disarray.
Not even Matt Forte could escape the raging, white-hot fire that is Marc Trestman’s offense, as its lead man, Jay Cutler, devolves into his pre-Trestman self before our horrified eyes. Forte managed 11.1 fantasy points on 20 touches against a vulnerable Green Bay defense that had allowed the ninth most fantasy points to running backs heading into Week 10.
I’m not imploring fantasy owners to sell off every piece of their Trestman investment. But I think it is well past time to adjust our expectations that this once-potent attack can withstand the turmoil surrounding it, a defense that can’t even execute basic pass coverages, and the ineffectiveness of Cutler, who just one month ago seemed to be on his way to a career year.
The Bears’ offensive snaps are slowly declining, reminding fantasy owners of 2013, when an atrocious Chicago defense allowed opponents to grind down leads, bleed the clock, and leave Bears’ skill position players with precious few chances to put up decent numbers. Chicago is averaging 63.9 offensive plays per game — more than 14 NFL teams — though I could see that number slide without a miraculous defensive turnaround.
This feels like a eulogy of sorts for an offense I thought could revolutionize the way teams move the ball down the field. Trestman’s system, in a vacuum, is still a wonderful concoction of high-percentage passes and unerring commitment to getting the ball to the team’s best players in space. But combine decreasing efficiency with fewer offensive snaps and you have a nice little recipe for fantasy misery.
I would listen to offers from league mates who might look to acquire Forte after his Sunday night dud, if only because I don’t expect this team to rally from its spectacular collapse. Don’t panic and sell fantasy’s No. 3 running back for peanuts, but don’t cover your ears either. You might be surprised by what league mates are willing to offer.
Here are a few more tidbits we learned in Week 10…
- Odell Beckham, Jr., in case you hadn’t acknowledged it, is an every-week fantasy starter. Rueben Randle still somehow out-targeted Beckham in the Giants’ Week 10 loss to Seattle, but OBJ did (much) more with less, posting 18.9 fantasy points on nine targets. Some of that production was against the indomitable Richard Sherman, even, showing that Beckham is as matchup proof as anyone not named Megatron, Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown, or Dez Bryant. The Seahawks paid OBJ the ultimate scheming compliment, occasionally moving Sherman around the formation to line up with the New York rookie. Beckham has posted top-12 receiver numbers since he was inserted into Big Blue’s starting lineup, averaging 99.3 yards and on 6.3 receptions per contest. Admittedly, I’m not one to prioritize receivers who aren’t oversized, but it’s time to acknowledge that Beckham is a highly efficient fantasy producer who should see more targets going forward. Oh, and Beckham has a fantasy playoff schedule that could make him one of the game’s late-season heroes. If you scooped up OBJ last month, hang tight and enjoy.
- Ronnie Hillman was once again in and out of the Broncos’ lineup with an injury — this time to his left foot, which he had taped up early on against Oakland. It was while Hillman got a little medical attention that C.J. Anderson showed that he is, by far, Denver’s most explosive runner. Anderson, who has been third on the Broncos’ depth chart since Montee Ball‘s injury, racked up 163 total yards and a score against the lowly Oakland defense. Perhaps even worse than Hillman’s injuries is his spotty pass protection — a shortcoming that will get a running back a one-way ticket to the pine in Peyton’s Perfect Machine. Denvers’ backfield — with the impending return of Montee Ball and Anderson’s emergence — is a fantasy mess at the moment, though it’s critically important to remember that Peyton likes his workhorses, explosive or otherwise. Anderson, available in 96 percent of leagues, could be of immense fantasy value down the 2014 home stretch, as Denver faces three of the league’s worst run defenses in Weeks 15-17. Anderson has notched 1.1 fantasy point per touch on 38 runs and receptions — a number obviously inflated by his long catch and run score against the Raiders. Whatever you think of Anderson, remember that the Peyton Manning Sponge Effect is real, and it’s spectacular.
- I know Drew Stanton came in for the vanquished Carson Palmer and played the hero yesterday against the Rams, but I’d be wary of Arizona skill position players from here on out. The 29-year-old backup, in three games as the Cardinals’ starter while Palmer recovered from a nerve condition in his shoulder, completed a woeful 48.3 percent of his passes and averaged 177.3 passing yards. That’s not bad. That’s horrific. We know now that Michael Floyd isn’t even the team’s No. 3 passing game option, so Palmer’s injury makes Floyd unplayable — probably droppable — in most fantasy leagues. John Brown seems to continually defy the odds — and regression — on his way to an amazing rookie campaign, though I think banking on him as a fantasy starter with Stanton at the helm is nothing short of inviting disaster. Perhaps Larry Fitzgerald can continue his possession receiver ways as a safety blanket of sorts for Stanton. And Andre Ellington, fantasy’s No. 7 running back through 10 weeks, sees a substantial hit to his weekly value with Palmer out. Ellington notched just 3.8 yards per carry in Stanton’s three games as a starter, and without a miraculous and lengthy touchdown reception against Denver in Week 5, he would’ve been a back-end RB2. While Ellington isn’t bench-worthy in 12-team leagues, his fantasy floor just got a lot lower.