Yep, Brandon Weeden. It’s all happening.
Together we — the fantasy football community — are about to face the toughest decision of our lives Sunday. Tougher than the decision to, say, get married, and tougher than the decision to move out of your parents’ place and take on the responsibility of dressing yourself every day.
Do you start a likely hobbled Robert Griffin III Sunday, or do you play with fire first, and then let fire win while going with a more conservative option? I’m still leaning heavily towards the former, because despite his minimal practice time this week, if the Redskins are confident enough to put their playoff fate in Griffin’s hands then you should be too. Griffin at 75 or so percent is a better fantasy option than at least half the league, and therefore he’ll definitely be a more attractive option than most of the potential backup QBs on your bench.
But what if he doesn’t play? In the second playoff edition of our matchup mining we found an appealing desperate replacement who will be on the same field.
Quarterback: Brandon Weeden vs. WAS
If you’re a Robert Griffin III owner and you’ve gone through four pairs of pants already as you fret a “true game-time decision,” then Weeden is the most attractive late-week add, and arguably the best desperate fill-in. Quite appropriately, he’ll be standing on the opposite sideline too.
Generally there’s very little to love about owning Weeden, and there’s even more to hate about being in a position where you’re forced to start him. While Griffin, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson have impressed during their rookie seasons, Weeden’s year has reflected the typical rookie QB year. His high came during Week 2 against Cincinnati when he threw for 322 yards on 8.7 per attempt, with a passer rating of 114.9. The low was just a week earlier with Weeden’s four interceptions during his first career start, and everything else falls somewhere in the vast space in between.
So stay away, right? No.
Weeden draws a Redskins secondary that needs to be streamed against at every possible opportunity, and especially during desperate times for so many of you this weekend if Griffin sits. First the surface-y numbers are highly encouraging (Washington is giving up 289.3 passing yards per game, worse enough for 31st), and then they’re really encouraging (with 27 overall, the Redskins are giving up at least two passing touchdowns per game).
Then some recent case studies are pretty encouraging too. Like last week, when Joe Flacco posted a passer rating of 121.4 on the ‘Skins, and his season rating is 87.1.
Running Back: Joique Bell @ ARI
You’re lost and worried, mostly because you’re a Mikel Leshoure owner. Last week Leshoure started to lose even more touches to Bell, and at first that was mostly greeted with a shrug. Bell is the speed, while Leshoure is the pounder, or so we thought. But then Bell received equal goal-line work during the Lions’ loss to Green Bay this past Sunday, and his ascension continued. He was also given a season high 17 carries, and he’s averaging 7.4 yards per carry over the past three weeks to Leshoure’s plodding 2.9 over the same stretch.
That’s some serious upward movement, and some serious flex value before we even begin to discuss the Lions’ matchup this weekend against the Cardinals and their 30th-ranked rushing defense. This is the same defense that’s one of only three allowing over 140 yards on the ground per game.
Wide Receiver: Brian Hartline vs. JAC
There’s a very Weeden-sian feel about Hartline. You know and recognize his flex value, but he has the sex appeal of [insert supermodel name here] in nine snowsuits. However, don’t tell that to the blondes who put themselves in, um, compromising positions while posing happily in pictures the Internet will never forget.
This week, though, Hartline’s production potential will rise with Davone Bess out due to a back injury, meaning that a receiver who’s already targeted often and is highly valued in point-per-reception leagues (Hartline has had 5 double-digit target games, and 18 targets over the past two weeks) will get even more looks against a poor Jaguars secondary that’s still ranked 24th, despite facing passing offenses ranked 28th and 29th over the past two weeks (Bills and Jets).
Tight End: Greg Olsen @ SD
I’m really not sure how this has happened during a time when Rob Gronkowski — still the highest scoring tight end in fantasy football even though he’s missed three games — is our for at least one more week, and others like Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, and Jermichael Finley have only name value. But even with that mess and with Brandon Pettigrew out, Greg Olsen is still unowned in nearly half of ESPN leagues (55.1 percent owned).
That ownership level still hovers low despite the fact he’s scored in two straight games, and he hasn’t had below 40 receiving yards in a game since Week 8. To put Olsen’s numbers during that stretch into further perspective, over those six games he had 344 receiving yards, while Jimmy Graham had 395. That’s not a significant gap considering where Graham was drafted (often among the top 25 overall picks), and where Olsen was drafted (often not at all).
So with all that in mind, we then turn to Olsen’s matchup this week, and realize that the Chargers are averaging 56 yards allowed to tight ends per game over the last four weeks, which also includes two touchdowns. Oh, and Olsen has been sort of hot of late, with 21 fantasy points since Week 13.