Adam Levitan

Football Daily Dose

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Fear the Beast

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Coming into this season, Marshawn Lynch had a strong down arrow next to his name. He looked like a simple plodder in 12 games with the Seahawks a year ago, averaging just 3.47 yards per carry. His new quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, doesn’t threaten defenses. And his offensive line was well below average.

But after Monday night’s 23 carries for 115 yards with one touchdown performance, Lynch is fantasy’s No. 6 running back. He’s behind only LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson. Lynch has gone over 100 yards in five of his last six games and has a touchdown in nine straight games.

So what’s going on here? Yes, Lynch is breaking tackles at the highest rate in the league. He’s running to contact, but is too physical for most defenders. He’s eating Skittles like they’re going out of style. He’s in Beast Mode.

However, let’s hold off on calling Lynch an elite back, one that belongs in the same class as those aforementioned backs. Take a close look at the matchups.

Lynch has faced top-10 run defenses six times this season. In those games, he’s averaging just 52.6 yards per game and getting 3.22 yards per carry with three touchdowns. In the six games against other defenses, he’s averaging 105.5 yards per game and getting 4.98 yards per carry with five touchdowns.

In other words, Lynch is abusing bad defenses and struggling against good ones. It’s reminiscent of last season when the Bucs’ passing game got overhyped thanks to a cake schedule. Lynch gets two more top-10 defenses over the next two weeks in the Bears and Niners. His owners should be concerned and those looking to next season shouldn't overreact to this streak.

Sam Bradford started and finished the game, but could barely move thanks to his balky ankle. He’s a much better quarterback than he has shown all season. … Danario Alexander dropped an easy touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. … Brandon Lloyd is a player. With a healthy Bradford and a full offseason, he’ll be a value pick next year. … Lance Kendricks looked really slow on his only catch of the day. Perhaps he’s playing hurt. … If you’re going to trust anyone in Seattle’s passing game, it has to be Doug Baldwin. He led the way with eight targets last night.

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!

The Packers got good news on Greg Jennings’ knee injury Monday. Fantasy owners did not.

Jennings sprained the MCL in his left knee during Sunday’s win over the Raiders. The official timetable is 2-3 weeks, meaning we won’t see Jennings until the second round of the NFL playoffs. He should be 100 percent with that game nearly five weeks away.

Hopefully, Jennings’ owners had James Jones handcuffed, as suggested here. We all know how talented and explosive Jones is, he just needs the snaps. He’ll get those now as the likely starter. And while we’re at it, go ahead and handcuff Matt Flynn to Aaron Rodgers and Shaun Hill to Matthew Stafford.

Ben Roethlisberger has a Grade 1 ankle sprain. He should be fine for Week 15. … Matt Hasselbeck’s calf injury is mild, but the Titans could very well use this as an opportunity to turn to Jake Locker. … Eagles WR Steve Smith (knee) is done for the year. … Chaz Schilens aggravated his foot injury in Week 14. … Kevin Kolb (concussion) is in doubt. … Jeremy Maclin’s hamstring tightened up on him in the second half in Week 14. He’s hard to trust right now. … Nate Washington aggravated his ankle injury late in the loss to the Saints. He’s in doubt. … Stevie Johnson is dealing with a hand injury.
The Vikings expect Adrian Peterson (ankle) to return in Week 15. … Scott Chandler (ankle) is not expected to play in Week 15. … Javon Ringer (hand) is likely done for the year. … Peyton Hillis (hip) practiced Monday. … Kevin Smith (ankle) expects to return in Week 15. He’d immediately regain a true workhorse role. … Joseph Addai was limited by his nagging hamstring issue last week. … The results of Jimmy Graham’s back MRI are unknown, but he guaranteed he’ll be fine.

The Cowboys are expected to sign Sammy Morris to backup Felix Jones. DeMarco Murray (ankle) is done for the year. … The Texans waived Derrick Mason, perhaps the final transaction of the veteran’s career. … Olindo Mare’s job is in jeopardy after yet another game-changing miss. … Eddie Royal (concussion) will likely be back in Week 15, but he’d rotate with Demaryius Thomas at best.

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. BENGALS at Rams - The Bengals’ defense is no longer the elite unit it was in the first half of the season thanks to injuries, but they’re still solid. The Rams are averaging 11.0 points per game over the last six games and are on a short week.

2. FALCONS vs. Jaguars - It’s safe to say that the Jags’ 41-point Week 14 outburst had more to do with the Bucs’ miserable defense than any watershed moment for Blaine Gabbert and the offense. They are still ranked dead last in the league in yards per game.

3. COWBOYS at Bucs - After Sunday night’s heartbreaker, the Cowboys are in a total desperation spot against a banged up Josh Freeman.  

Bonus play: TITANS at Colts

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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