When this week’s games are over, we’ll have completed roughly one-third of the fantasy football season and it’s at this point where you’ll see whether your team has what it takes to compete in the playoffs or if an overhaul is needed via the trade front. Waiver wire picks will help supplement, but there’s currently nothing out there that will push you over the hump if your squad is struggling. And what’s most important this week is the watchful eye that you must keep on some of this season’s biggest disappointments and early-season strugglers. It’s a make-it-or-break-it week for many players. If they shine, then you have hope that replacements aren’t needed. But if they continue to struggle, you are left with the choice of either selling-low to salvage what you can or simply just cutting bait and accept your losses. Here are a few players whose owners will be locked onto their performances this week. Will they redeem themselves finally or have they just been a waste of a high draft choice this whole time?
Stevan Ridley, RB NE – So much of the fantasy community has already seemed to have written off Ridley as one of the season’s biggest busts with almost no chance of rebounding; that Brandon Bolden and/or LeGarrette Blount are on the verge of unseating him as the team’s primary running back. But while that’s the fantasy community, it’s the opinions of Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaches that matter most. While Bolden is still expected to see work on passing downs, Ridley should still get the opportunity to lead the way out of the backfield this week. Unfortunately, it’s going to be tough to find running room as the Falcons boast the fifth best run defense and have allowed an average of just 79 rushing yards per game this season. But Ridley doesn’t need to run for 100-plus yards a two touchdowns to see his season (and fantasy value) turn around. He just needs to prove competent out of the backfield, post a decent yards per carry average, and show at least some flashes of the running back we saw last year. If he doesn’t, well, it might just be time for the heave-ho.
David Wilson, RB NYG – Wilson has been killing fantasy owners from day one and the fact that Brandon Jacobs is taking all of the short-yardage work right now means that he’s going to need to break a fairly long run to find his way into the endzone. It’s a bit of a tall order, unless of course he gets himself in a position to follow some blockers on a screen, because his runs out of the backfield have produced nothing but a disappointing 3.0 yards per carry. He did show some promise last week against the Panthers on a 17-yard touchdown run that ended up being called back, but he did break some tackles there and actually looked like someone worthy of a second round draft pick. He’ll need to show that same type of play this week if he is going to be a reliable running back moving forward. While Kansas City’s overall defense ranks high, the results are skewed by an incredibly strong pass defense. Their run defense allows an average of 124 yard per game on the ground and should provide Wilson a golden opportunity to shine.
C.J. Spiller, RB BUF – Is there a bigger bust than Spiller right now? I don’t think so. He was a consensus top five pick in nearly every draft this year, but has hardly earned that value through the first three weeks. He’s struggled on the field, racking up just 153 rushing yards on 43 carries (3.56 YPC), has been hindered with both a minor concussion and a quad injury, and has quickly given way to Fred Jackson who opted to pass on the retirement village in favor of another year in Buffalo. He’s got a tough task in front of him this week, facing a Baltimore run D that allows an average of just 74.7 yards per game, but there is hope on the passing front as the Ravens rank just 16th against running back screen passes. Due to the match-up, similarly to Ridley, Spiller doesn’t need to post ridiculous numbers to provide hope for the future. He just needs to show that he is both healthy and strong and with any match-up, he can be reasonably productive.
Dwayne Bowe, WR KC – Where oh where is the on-field rapport with quarterback Alex Smith that we heard so much about in the preseason? He’s seen just 18 targets through the first three games and has just 90 yards and one touchdown to show for it. What’s worse is that the glimmer of hopes seems to be dimming as fellow receiver Donnie Avery seems to have Smith’s attention and is stealing targets at a rapid rate. Bowe is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons so the expectations have been fairly high in spite of the quarterback change and is in dire need of a breakout game for his fantasy owners to have faith in him once again. Facing a struggling Giants defense could be just what the doctor ordered as they have allowed a total of 793 receiving yards and six touchdowns through the air this season. Whiile that looks pretty tasty, it should be noted that the Giants seem to do a good job against opposing No. 1 receivers this season, so while a potential breakout is possible (and much-needed), yards could be tough to come by.
Roddy White, WR ATL – This ankle injury has been a real pain in the neck for those who drafted White this season. The injury didn’t come until late in the preseason and the veteran has been a complete non-factor through the Falcons’ first three games, collecting just 56 yards on seven catches. While it’s encouraging that he’s been on the field, the fact that he’s been used more as a decoy has been a burden on his owners. You want to start him because he’s out there and has tremendous upside, but you can’t afford any more of these one and two-point weeks. He’s still listed as questionable on the Week 4 injury report but should continue to play through this injury. The problem is that White faces a surprisingly tough pass defense in the Patriots this week as they have been incredibly stingy, allowing just 200 yards per game through the air. Given his potential and upside, he’s hardly one you’ll want to cut bait with, but time is running out and you’re going to need to get some sort of value from him, whether it’s on the field or on the trade market.
Lance Moore, WR NO – While you hate to do it, you may just have to cut bait with the Saints receiver as he has been a disaster through the first three games and is now highly questionable with a wrist injury. In fact, he hasn’t practiced this week at all and was already starting to lose targets to Robert Meachem and Kenny Stills. He faces a tough match-up with the Dolphins this week and then another two tough match-ups with Chicago and New England next before a bye. In fact, I don’t even know what I’m doing wasting time writing about him when I should already be looking at my waiver wire to find an immediate replacement.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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