Adam Levitan

Football Daily Dose

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A Mess For Mathews

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

With Mike Tolbert inactive Monday night, we expected the Chargers to ride Ryan Mathews until the wheels fell off. Well, they did.

Mathews has certainly earned a reputation as an elite, special talent with the ball in his hands. He’s also earning a reputation as someone that is often nicked up. Since breaking into the league last season, Mathews has dealt with a recurring high-ankle sprain, wrist surgery, toe soreness and a calf strain. After Monday night, we can add groin pull to that list.

Mathews gave way to third-stringer Curtis Brinkley midway through the fourth quarter Monday night, allowing Brinkley to rack up a touchdown, a two-point conversion and  67 total yards. The good news for Mathews’ owners is that he watched in full pads from the sidelines, hinting at a minor injury. It's also worth noting that Brinkley was getting examined for a concussion after the game. The bad news is that Mathews has a history of playing poorly through injury. He has a short week to get ready for Sunday's game against the Packers.

Rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin was really impressive. Leaps to get the ball at its highest point, catches it with his hands. He’s playing in enough two-wide sets to be worth a look. … Antonio Gates was robbed of a touchdown by a weak offensive pass interference call. He still played well despite consistent double teams on third downs and in the red zone. … Brandon Flowers did not shadow Vincent Jackson. For some strange reason, V-Jax just isn’t the primary read on many routes right now. The Chargers must correct that. … Something is off with Philip Rivers. He missed some easy throws and tossed knuckleballs on a couple others. He also has just three touchdown passes in his last five games. … Jackie Battle merely gets what is blocked and falls forward. He’ll throw up some duds that way, but 12-16 touches weekly is a good bet.

Editor’s Note: For early rankings, projections, the Running Back report, the top-200 going forward list and much more, check out the Season Pass!

Coach Mike Munchak confirmed Monday that Chris Johnson will remain his starter going forward. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d have to write.

But the bottom line is that Johnson has been outplayed all season long by Javon Ringer. Period. There’s no other way to look at it. So out of fairness to everyone else in the locker room whose playing time is decided by production, Munchak has no choice but to go with a “hot hand” style of backfield. And right now, there’s no reason to think Johnson will get a hot hand. Predicting workloads for Johnson and Ringer is going to be extremely difficult for the foreseeable future.

Here are the Patriots running back snap counts from Week 8: Kevin Faulk 39, BenJarvus Green-Ellis 13, Danny Woodhead 4, Stevan Ridley 0.

That’s right -- in his first game of the season, Faulk led the Patriots backfield in snaps by a wide margin. That’s because the coaches view him as their “passing back,” one that excels in both blitz pickup and catching the ball out of the backfield. Never mind that Faulk is 35 and coming off ACL surgery.

When the Patriots are winning, the Law Firm will lead the backfield in snaps and touches. When they are behind -- as they were in Week 8 -- it’s Faulk and Woodhead. This is another situation that will be almost impossible to project on a week-to-week basis.

Tim Tebow will start Sunday’s game against the Raiders. That’s all he’s guaranteed for now.

From here, it looks like the Broncos want to leave Tebow out there long enough to show the fans he can’t play -- but not leave him out there for too long and thus lose the locker room. Regardless, Tebow is clearly a long way away from being a mediocre NFL quarterback.

But fantasy owners should ignore his real-life ineptitude. In two starts, Tebow has rushed for 122 yards, thrown for 333 and tossed three touchdowns. And that’s with him playing as poorly as an NFL quarterback can possibly play. With just a slight improvement, Tebow will have QB1 status.

Darren McFadden (foot) was held out of practice Monday. His status remains unclear. … Hakeem Nicks’ hamstring MRI came back clean and he’s simply day to day. … The Lions had no update on Jahvid Best (concussion). … Montario Hardesty (calf) is going to miss at least two weeks. Peyton Hillis (hamstring) is day to day. Chris Ogbonnaya is next up. … Andre Johnson (hamstring) is still not close to 100 percent. He’s very questionable for Week 9. … Kevin Kolb (turf toe) is no lock to play this week. … Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) is sore and needs to be monitored. …  Sam Bradford (ankle) is out of his walking boot. … Julio Jones (hamstring) is on track to return this week. … Fred Davis (ankle) has a mere Grade 1 ankle sprain.

Tarvaris Jackson is fully expected to start next week. … The Redskins claimed Tashard Choice off waivers. He’ll slide into the three-hole in Mike Shanahan’s unpredictable backfield for now. … Coach Andy Reid admitted that DeSean Jackson is used as a decoy at times. … The Vikings’ reiterated their commitment to using Adrian Peterson in the passing game. … Joseph Addai (hamstring) was only active Sunday in case of injury to Delone Carter or Donald Brown.

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Adding a different defense/special teams each week based on matchups is a fine strategy. Here are units that might be on waivers to consider this week for streaming purposes:

1. TEXANS vs. Browns - At this point, Houston’s unit should be owned in all formats. They are giving up just 18.1 points per game and are averaging two turnovers forced.

2. RAIDERS vs. Broncos - As mentioned above, Tim Tebow is in for another start. In his five career starts, Tebow has thrown four interceptions, fumbled five times and been sacked 19 times.

3. COWBOYS vs. Seahawks - The Sunday night massacre in Philadelphia was not a fair assessment of Dallas’ defense. The Eagles were in full desperation mode, coming out of a bye and playing a nationally televised night game. Look for a big bounce-back out of Rob Ryan’s unit this week.

Check out Gregg Rosenthal's thoughts on what to do with Chris Johnson.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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