Ryan Mathews Boosts His Fantasy Football Stock for 2011

It’s amazing how perspective has changed from real football to fantasy football, but I suppose the point is the same. After letting LaDainian Tomlinson go and trading up to get a running back in the first round of the draft, the Chargers planned to turn their rushing attack over to fresh legs in 2010. San Diego targeted Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews as their man but the plan did not pan out.

Mathews hurt his ankle in week two and returned two weeks later as a complementary back. He shared carries with Mike Tolbert for about six weeks, hurt his ankle again, and missed three more games. Mathews split carries with Tolbert the last three weeks but became the feature back after Tolbert was knocked out for the season with a neck injury.

Mathews saw a season high 26 carries Sunday against Denver, rolling for 120 yards and three touchdowns. He caught three passes for 19 yards and seemed to making big play after big play for the Chargers. This was the first time all year Mathews got a full dose of carries and he pounded the pill at will.

Mike Tolbert will likely be back to share the load, but after an off-season to rest, Mathews should be a monster next year. Best part of all, after starting off the year with a fumbling problem (one in each of his first two games, three all year), Mathews didn’t fumble over the final month of the year. He has the makings of a great second running back to draft next season in fantasy football, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Chargers start running the ball more in the future. For another take, check out Adam Rank’s post at NFL.com.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Fantasy Football Week 17 Playoff Scenarios: Who Will Sit, Who Will Play

Week 17 is one of the trickiest weeks in fantasy football. Which teams will start their studs and let them play all game? Which ones will scrooge us all by playing starters only partial games? Predicting such affairs is a difficult business, but we’ll do our best to try and help guide you in the most important week of the fantasy football season: championship week.


Atlanta Falcons – Playing for the top overall seed and the homefield advantage that comes along with it. All systems go for Atlanta.

Chicago Bears – Will know if they have a chance at top seed by the time they play Sunday (need a Falcons and Saints loss to move up). They’ve said they’re playing everybody but I would be skeptical their stars play full games. I would go in a different direction.

New Orleans Saints – A win and Falcons loss would give them the division. They’re at home against the Bucs and they’ll want to keep rolling heading into the playoffs. They’re a good bet to play well.

Philadelphia Eagles – They’ve clinched the division and don’t have a chance at the bye week. Mike Vick and DeSean Jackson will likely miss the game to rest and heal. Kevin Kolb could be a decent option if you need to pick up a quarterback.

Green Bay Packers – A win and they’re in. They’ll be going all out to clinch the final playoff spot. Though a Giants and Bucs loss also puts them in, the Giants play at the same time so they won’t know if they backed into a playoff spot until after they’re done.

New York Giants – Need a win to have a chance at the playoffs. They’ll go all out, but the concerns are Hakeem Nicks’ broken toe and Ahmad Bradshaw’s ankle. Nicks probably won’t play, Bradshaw probably will. The Giants’ offense isn’t a great play at Washington, but their defense is. Avoid Rex Grossman.

Buccaneers, Rams, and Seahawks are all playing for playoff spots and their fantasy players should be treated like every other week. Same goes for all other NFC teams.


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Rashad Jennings Is a Must-Have Fantasy Backup to Maurice Jones-Drew

It’s the finals of fantasy football for many leagues, and if not that then we’re deep into the playoffs. Unfortunately for some owners they have to worry about stud

Maurice Jones-Drew, upon whom they relied for the regular season. Jones-Drew, who had a stretch of six straight 100-yard games, sat out the final few drives for the Jags against the Colts Sunday. MJD ended up with just 15 totes, his fewest amount since week two, but says his knee was not to blame.

Complicating matters is the fact that Jones-Drew missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of his knee. The Jags have said they’ll announce Maurice’s status for Sunday’s game on Friday. Fantasy owners would be wise to pick up backup Rashad Jennings if they haven’t already. Jennings is a fully-capable back who scored touchdowns in weeks 12-14 for Jacksonville. If MJD ends up unable to play in a critical game for the Jags, Jennings will be a good roster replacement.

UPDATE: MJD is doubtful and reportedly unlikely to play. Start Jennings.

Owen Daniels, Austin Collie, Pierre Thomas Are Strong Fantasy Pickups

We haven’t done our usual working the waiver wire fantasy column the last two weeks because bye weeks are over and most people are in fantasy playoffs. Still, that won’t keep us from providing recommendations throughout the week when they arise, and it shouldn’t prevent you from contacting your expert (larry at larrybrownsports dot com) for personal advice. Not only does LB kill it with Doc Brown’s picks each week, but LB’s fantasy teams are first in each of their leagues and his advice has been spot on each week. Anyway, here are some recommended pickups if these guys are available in your league.

Hopefully someone dropped Texans tight end Owen Daniels in your league. Daniels has been bothered by a hamstring injury and missed five weeks. He returned to catch 5 passes for 91 yards Monday night against the Ravens, and that was despite some brutal drops. His hands might be rusty, but his body isn’t. If you need a fill-in tight end for the playoffs, grab Daniels if he’s available. The bonus is he has great matchups ahead (at Ten, at Den, Jax).

Colts wide receiver Austin Collie has missed nearly half the season because of concussions. Before the concussions, he was becoming one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets, and now that he’s back he should resume that role. Expect a monster week from Collie against the Jags at home in his first week back.

Lastly, hopefully Pierre Thomas was dropped in your league like the two aforementioned people because of injuries. The Saints running back missed nine games because of an ankle injury and finally returned on Sunday and led the team with 12 carries. With Chris Ivory battling a hamstring injury, Pierre could lead the team in carries again. Though the Ravens are a tough matchup, Pierre’s contributions in the passing game keep him valuable against any opponent.

Vikings Quarterback Joe Webb Could Become Intriguing Fantasy Play

The Minnesota Vikings quarterback situation has become an utter mess and situation to avoid in fantasy. You have Brett Favre whose consecutive game streak was snapped on Monday night at 297 because of multiple injuries. Backup Tarvaris Jackson looked like his typical awful self and only produced three points. On top of banging knees with Adrian Peterson early in the game, T-Jack also suffered turf toe.

The combination of injuries to Minnesota’s top two quarterbacks has led to the team signing Patrick Ramsey this week. It also means rookie 6th round pick Joe Webb could get the start according to reporter Judd Zulgad.

Webb played quarterback at UAB and was a wide receiver prospect coming out of the draft. Because of that reason, he is listed as both a quarterback and wide receiver in some fantasy leagues, including Yahoo! leagues, as our wise friends at Rotoworld pointed out.

Though Minnesota’s Monday night clash against Chicago will be played outdoors in poor conditions, Webb can likely put up more points than most receivers if he starts at quarterback. He’s a running QB, so if he gets 30-40 yards on the ground with 120 passing yards and a touchdown, he could produce more fantasy points than your typical fourth or fifth receiving option. Being a rookie and facing a darn good defense in adverse conditions does not add up to an enticing matchup, but Webb sure as heck is intriguing.

Aaron Rodgers’ Concussion Kills Fantasy Football Owners

If you’re a fantasy football owner that started round one of the playoffs this week and Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback, you have some serious adversity to overcome.  Rodgers’ fantasy owners were likely already cursing in the first half against the Lions when Greg Jennings let a 60-yard touchdown pass tip off his hands and get picked off.  A few series later, Rodgers suffered a concussion while running the ball and had to leave the game.  He won’t return.

Considering he was facing the Lions, most fantasy owners were probably thinking anything less than a 20-point game from Rodgers would be a disappointment (in standard scoring leagues).  Instead, the Packers quarterback finished the game with 46 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, and an interception.  That likely resulted in around a 3-point fantasy game.

Rodgers is normally a fantasy monster so the injury will be a huge concern heading forward as well.  If Rodgers is your quarterback and you happen to pull out a win today, the question then becomes will he be able to go next weekend. What’s particularly concerning is that the concussion is his second of the season.  It would certainly be tough to survive without him for an extended period of time.

James Starks Is a Decent Fantasy Addition But Don’t Get Carried Away

With most leagues heading into the playoffs this week, we didn’t do our typical weekly fantasy waiver wire column; those of you who have made the postseason probably have a good idea of what you’re doing. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t provide some valuable fantasy advice when it comes up. Enter James Starks.

Brandon Jackson owners know quite well that Starks led the Packers in carries Sunday against the 49ers. The rookie 6th round pick from Buffalo made his season debut racking up 73 yards on 18 carries. John Kuhn was next on the team with six carries while quarterback Aaron Rodgers ran it four times and running back Brandon Jackson also had four carries. Though several backs got into the act, Starks clearly separated himself in terms of workload.

Though Starks seems promising, I have my reservations about his potential productivity. Green Bay has become a pass-heavy team putting the ball in the hand of Aaron Rodgers for the most part. They have a dome game in Detroit this weekend meaning they’ll probably throw it plenty. After Detroit, it’s at New England and then home against the Bears and Giants to finish up the year — both good teams against the run. Maybe the Packers haven’t been good running the ball because they haven’t had a good running back, but I just don’t see this team suddenly giving Starks 20 carries a game leading to 100 yards. Additionally, Jackson is a good pass catcher out of the backfield and will still be a big part of the offense.

Starks may get 15 carries a game the rest of the way, but without rushing touchdowns he won’t be too valuable. He’s a decent player to watch but don’t get carried away.