By Neil Dutton, Lead Fantasy Football Writer
As we approach the business end of the fantasy season, every pass dropped, every run stuffed in the backfield, every interception thrown can and will hurt our teams. That is why we must trust the established superstars to deliver in the clutch. But what happens when they don’t come through? Well, then I write about them here and try to keep the disdain out of my voice…which isn’t always as easy as you’d think. If you follow the games closely, you won’t be surprised to discover that skill players from one particular team will feature strongly as I go on, and most of that stems from the failings of one player in particular. But I digress.
(Fantasy points are based on NFL.com standard scoring.)
Peyton Manning (owned in 91.7% of NFL.com leagues) -6.83 Fantasy Points (yes, that’s MINUS 6.83)
While there are probably words that can sum up just how poor a showing this was by Manning, I do not feel sufficiently skilled in the literary arts to contrive them. On the day that he became the all time leader in NFL regular season passing yards, Peyton played as if he’d won the chance to play quarterback in a raffle. He has less than 10 fantasy points in six outings this season, and quite simply can not be trusted in fantasy terms moving into the playoffs. Its been an incredible journey, Mr M, but here’s where I get off.
Isaiah Crowell (74.9%) -0.10 FP
A regular on this list, Crowell’s lack of a role in the Browns passing game continues to hold back his production, particularly when they fall behind so spectacularly as they did here. Since a 14.70 fantasy outing against Baltimore in Week 5, The Crow has produced 13.90 points COMBINED in his last five outings, never rushing for more than 38 yards nor registering more than 26 yards receiving. Pittsburgh are admittedly better at defending the run than the pass, but minus five yards rushing is an impressively bad show. He has home games against Baltimore, Cincinnati and the 49ers after a Week 11 bye, but I wouldn’t want to entrust my hopes for a playoff push to him on current form.
C.J. Anderson (83.3%) 0.90 FP
C.J. is presumably devastated that Eddie Lacy missed Week 10, as it threw sharper focus onto HIM as one of the main fantasy disappointments at the running back spot this season. While the on-going uncertain identity of the lead back in the Denver rushing rotation have not helped either Anderson or Ronnie Hillman (not to mention their owners), the simple fact of the matter is that C.J. has failed spectacularly to seize a job that has handed to him on countless occasions. He has one 100 yard rushing game, one rushing touchdown (both in the same Week 8 victory over Green Bay) and no more than 27 yards receiving in any game this year. His 5.5 average fantasy points per game is hardly the stuff that those who drafted him at the end of Round 1 or the top of Round 2 in August were dreaming off. A surprisingly stout Bears run defense is up next for the Broncos, and if they can bottle up Todd Gurley I wouldn’t give tuppence for C.J.’s chances of breaking out against them.
John Brown (92.0%) 0.00 FP
Smokey, while playing on 61 more snaps than he did in the game immediately before the bye, produced the exact same number of fantasy points. While he did not seem hampered by his hamstring, he was only targeted three times. His outlook is more positive than others on this list, given the rapport he has built up with his QB this season and the likelihood of fellow wide receiver Michael Floyd missing game time thanks to…a hamstring injury. He should see more volume, but his next three outings are against the Bengals, the 49ers and the Rams. He should be a WR3 with touchdown upside moving forward.
Emmanuel Sanders (99.7%) 0.00 FP
Despite quarterback play that has been at best uneven, at worst downright awful, “Manny” has been able to flirt with WR2 production of occasion in 2015, posting fewer than 65 yards receiving just once this season…before Sunday. Under a fitness cloud heading into the game thanks to an ankle issue, Sanders was targeted four times by a QB who was wearing a Peyton Manning jersey but who playing like Cooper Manning, catching none of them. He then suffered a head injury that curtailed his involvement in proceedings. He has entered the concussion protocol, and faces an uncertain wait to see if he can suit up against the Bears next week in what would be a great matchup for any competent receiver being fed by a steady quarterback. Unfortunately, only one of those situations is likely to be evident in Denver for the foreseeable future.
Martellus Bennett (92.2%) 1.80 FP
Wyclef Jean once sang that he’d be gone until November. The Black Unicorn sings a similar tune, only he foretells a return in September…when he’s actually fantasy relevant. Bennett has three touchdowns on the season, but has eclipsed 57 yards receiving in a game just once, back in Week 4 against Oakland. While a tight end was a huge part of the Bears victory over the Rams on Sunday, it was instead Zach Miller who lit up the Edward Jones Dome, not Bennett. It’s Denver next for Chicago, and while they have a slight weakness against tight ends it would be hard for me to recommend trusting Bennett in this situation.