Potential is a word that should only be attached to a player for a short time. When we talk about potential, we’re discussing what could be, and what should be. We’re discussing ceilings, and where the players’ talent can take him if everything aligns just so. We’re talking about a trajectory.

At some point between the injuries and the upright running, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray lost his way.

Overall he’s still produced for you with 51.5 fantasy points through four weeks, which ranks him seventh at a position largely filled with disappointments thus far. That’s swell, but when we dig just one shovel full below the surface, we see that most of his rushing yardage and therefore fantasy points predictably came two weeks ago in a highly favorable matchup against the Rams, and their run defense that’s giving up 133.5 yards per game.

Almost exactly half of Murray’s fantasy production this season (25 points) came that week, and ditto for his rushing yardage (175 of his 356 overall yards). We can’t simply discount that game, because it happened. Murray did what he was expected to do: he exploited a strong matchup in his favor, and was the stud you needed and expected him to be. The problem, though, is his lack of top tier production given the other juicy matchups thus far on the Cowboys’ schedule, which may lead to doom today against the Broncos, and their rush defense that’s allowing all of 74.0 yards per game.

Perhaps I’m a little greedy and thankless as a Murray owner myself in one league, because when we factor in his receiving yardage (his 21 receptions raise Murray’s value in PPR leagues) and the pace of 552 yards through the air this year he’s currently on, things don’t seem so bad. Murray has at least 100 yards from scrimmage in three of the Cowboys’ four games.

Wonderful. But look at his schedule again, and then try not to be disappointed. Including the aforementioned Rams, the Cowboys have played four defenses ranked 25th or lower against the run through a quarter of the season, with the others being the Giants, Chiefs, and Chargers. Combined, those teams are giving up 123.5 rushing yards per game. So yes, it’s appropriate to call Murray’s current average of 89.0 yards weekly disappointing, and to expect something that borders on only flex production today.

More stray lineup thoughts and words of warning

  • WOAH WOAH WOAH: Calvin Johnson is surprisingly inactive due to a knee problem. Start your scrambling, Megatron owners, and bump Ryan Broyles way up. His breakout was supposed to happen last week, but with both Johnson and Nate Burleson out, Matthew Stafford will be forced to target Broyles often. You can even make an emergency pickup, as Broyles is available in half of ESPN leagues. Kris Durham is also a sleeper pickup and a flex option now after his three receptions for 58 yards last week, as is Joe Fauria, with both Lions tight ends likely targeted more too. Also, expect even more involvement for Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in the passing game.
  • We’re all familiar with the Danny Amendola drill: draft him if you’re willing to embrace risk, prepare for missed time, and trot him out whenever he’s healthy because at full strength in this Patriots offense he may be a better Wes Welker than Wes Welker. He’s playing today according to everyone who reports football things, but here’s the most important slice of information from Jay Glazer: to the surprise of no one, the Pats are planning to handle their fragile wideout with care, and limit his snaps. This creates a bit of a conundrum, especially with bye weeks ongoing (Greg Jennings, Antonio Brown, Vincent Jackson, and Pierre Garcon are among the notable wide receivers sitting out). It’s easy to freak the hell out upon reading Glazer’s report and bench our boy Danny. But please recall that during his only regular-season game with the Patriots back in Week 1 he missed over a quarter of the game, yet he still hauled in 10 catches for 104 yards while being targeted 14 times. If you own Amendola, you’re starting Amendola, but prepare yourself for low-end numbers today in WR3 territory, and anything more is delicious gravy.
  • Your super sleeper this week is Zac Stacy, and you’re much less than crazy in a deep league (14 teams or more) if you use him as a desperate bye-week replacement for Adrian Peterson or Doug Martin. You could even go pick him up now since he’s available in pretty much every ESPN league (less than 1% owned). Daryl Richardson has plodded along at a snail pace of only 2.7 yards per carry, so between Isaiah Pead and Stacy, it’ll be the latter who will get the first chance to show his hand can get hotter. Earlier this morning NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano relayed word that Stacy will start today in a great matchup against the Jaguars, and their run defense that’s allowing a league worst 165.0 yards per game.
  • And about that leaky Jacksonville run defense: last week in a blowout 37-3 win for the Colts over the comical Jags, Trent Richardson had ample opportunity to show his new team that he’s worth the price they paid, and he’s not a steaming pile of nothingness. The result? On a season high 20 carries against the league’s worst run defense, he finished with 60 yards for a still sluggish 3.0 YPC. I like T-Rich a lot and think he’ll begin to silence those who say nay soon, but it won’t happen this week against Seattle. Brace for more dust after three or four yards, and trouble finding holes.
  • You never need a reason to get excited about LeSean McCoy, because you’re always excited about LeSean McCoy. But against a Giants defense that ranks 28th against the run and is averaging one rushing touchdown allowed per game, McCoy could be the highest producing fantasy player this week who doesn’t play quarterback.
  • You’ve also been quite excited about Torrey Smith lately, which happens when a wide receiver is clipping along at over 100 yards per game (108.0). Trouble is, today may be the day we see a much more isolated and contained Smith. Oh, the numbers will still be there, and he’ll still have a fine game. But maybe not quite a WR1-level day against the combination of Dolphins corners Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll, who are giving up a catch rate of only 53.2.