Saying the Mike Wallace signing has failed thus far in Miami is like saying Rob Ford is an incompetent rube who’s redefining public dysfunction. Both of those statements are widely embraced and are common public knowledge.
But unlike those of you in mayoral fantasy leagues who are getting docked points for every public mention of female genitalia, downgrading Wallace is still difficult and painful. Human nature takes over on two levels. Firstly, you’ve seen Wallace do explosive and wonderful things in the past, and the uniquely horrible experience of him doing that while on your bench isn’t one you want to live through. Then there’s also the draft investment you made, with Wallace a fifth-round pick on average.
Today you’re left with two options: either release your inner Wallace hate and lower expectations drastically or even bench him if you have other more appealing options, or hate yourself.
Oh sure, there’s a reasonable chance Wallace could make me chow down on these delicious words if he catches even one booming deep ball this afternoon in a highly favorable matchup against the Chargers and their secondary that’s allowing 279.6 passing yards per game (28th), 8.6 per attempt (32nd), and an opposing passer rating of 104.3 (32nd). Those are the sort of defensive numbers which would make Wallace a top Week 11 threat under normal circumstances, and easily a WR1.
But there’s nothing remotely normal with the Dolphins’ offense this year, and especially not this week. To be effective, Wallace needs be targeted deep. That’s what he does, that’s who he is, and that’s what he’ll always be. His 2010 season in Pittsburgh is now a distance memory, but we can still look back to that as an example of Wallace at his best because it was a season when he averaged 21.0 yards per catch. What’s he down to now? 12.4 YPC. Yep, he’s flirting with a decline of 10 yards per catch from his career peak.
The explanation for that can be complex (a poor scheme fit), but lately it’s been much more simple: it’s difficult for your quarterback to even attempt to look deep when he’s on his back and starring at pretty clouds.
Ryan Tannehill is now infamously on pace to be sacked 65 times this year, and through nine weeks he’s already been sacked four or more times in six games. His offensive line was weak to begin with, but the root of Tannehill’s punishment — and by extension Wallace’s struggles, and his four games with less than 25 receiving yards and per game average of 55.0 yards — are the absences among the five large men in front of him. The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin kerfuffle has received widespread media attention for its off the field implications, but on the field two crucial bodies are missing. One of the replacements is the aging and discarded Bryant McKinnie, and today the plague gets worse with center Mike Pouncey out due to a kidney/gallbladder issue.
So the final tally then is three starters out in front of Tannehill, potentially ruining what should have been a prime matchup for rare WR1 production from Wallace. Now he descends to WR3 or flex territory at best, with Tannehill again forced to consistently look to slot receiver Rishard Matthews (who was targeted 14 times last week), and Charles Clay on short-to-intermediate routes.
More stray lineup thoughts, predictions, words of warning
Elsewhere in lowered expectations: nature hates Chicago
Oh gawd the rapture is upon us. Hide your wife, hide your kids, and bench every player involved in any northeast game! Also, tarter sauce.
That may be a slight overreaction. Weather is just wind, man, it blows everywhere. But if there’s one game you really, seriously need to be worried about, it’s the one that will be played in Chicago, mostly because tornadoes are bad.
Check out the flags to get an idea of the windy conditions at Soldier Field: pic.twitter.com/no7GrjOlCs
— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) November 17, 2013
The tornado warning is in effect until 4 p.m., when the Ravens-Bears game is wrapping up. At some point human health and safety matters more than a football game, so if it gets really ugly there could be at least a pause in the proceedings.
As you can see in the above scientific flag demonstration, winds are already exceedingly strong, which will make passing something that could rarely happen successfully, and especially not deep. A pair of weather systems are colliding with Illinois in the center of their wrath, and the most intense time will be right at kickoff, with occasional wind gusts reaching 27 mph accompanied by thunderstorms and the possibility of hail the size of quarters. It’s so bad that the Chicago Office of Emergency Management has been in contact with the Bears throughout the day.
So what should you do with those fantasy studs at the center of hell’s reckoning? Very little.
Even in these extreme and daunting conditions, there’s no universe in which you’re benching the primary studs in this game on either side, and by that I mean Brandon Marshall, Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte. What you’re doing, though, is dramatically lowering what you’re expecting from them today. Suddenly all three of those wideouts become WR3′s at best since they rely on deep balls for production. That especially applies to Smith and Jeffery, while the concerns are a touch lower with Marshall since often his wingspan and physicality is utilized up the middle. Remember too that despite his brilliance in relief of Jay Cutler, Josh McCown is still about to start only his fourth game since 2007, and he’ll be doing it in the middle of a tidal wave. Stay away from him, and don’t touch Joe Flacco.
Those who own Forte, Ray Rice, and Bernard Pierce may actually benefit from the extreme conditions, with both offenses forced to focus far more on the running game. The true impact here is the fantasy kickers, a discarded and forgotten position we rarely address around these parts. Yes, kickers are people too, but now you can’t touch Justin Tucker and Robbie Gould. Run far, far away from them.
Nature also isn’t fond of Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh
Chicago will have by far the worst conditions of all the northeast games today, but unpleasantness lurks elsewhere too. Generally, the same approach you’re taking with any top fantasy stud-like players in Chicago applies to those in Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Run away from the kickers if possible, downgrade the receivers and quarterbacks, and expect a heavy workload from those workhorse RBs. In some places the running game may be so dominant that normally overlooked backup RBs have more value (example: in deep leagues, you’re less than crazy for flexing Michael Bush today).
However, the most significant non-Chicago weather decision is a regrettable one: you’re not touching anyone on the Bills’ roster who isn’t named C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson. This is disappointing because with Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson out, I would have easily recommended Marquise Goodwin (again) and T.J. Graham as sleepers. But like Smith and Jeffery, they’re deep ballers, and 25 mph wind gusts will severely limit E.J. Manuel’s long looks.
Don’t start Percy Harvin
Obviously, Percy Harvin finally getting onto the field today in a meaningful football game is terrific news for those who stashed him. But even though he’s active in reality, wait one more week before you do the same in football that isn’t real. Today will be a sort of test drive for Harvin against the Vikings, with Ian Rapoport reporting that he’s only expected to play 10-15 snaps.
URGENT UPDATE: Now Chris Mortensen is reporting that although Harvin won’t receive his full workload, his snaps will be “meaningful“. How “meaningful” is that to you? Welp, it means that if you own Harvin and there’s the potential for red-zone usage, feel free to plug him into that flex spot of yours.