Adam Levitan

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Welker's Last Stand

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Patriots are one of the most tight-lipped organizations in all of sports. In order to parse together what’s going on in coaches meetings, practices and the training room, we often have to look at clues.

So when it comes to the Wes Welker, our monocle is out and we’re hunting. Here’s what we know:

1. Last year, Welker played on 89.2 percent of the offensive snaps and was targeted 10.7 times per game.
2. In Week 1, Welker played on 64.1 percent of the offensive snaps and was targeted five times.
3. Welker is playing on a one-year franchise tag. The Patriots have not appeared motivated to sign him to a long-term deal.
4. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is a vertical kind of play-caller. Welker is a horizontal kind of route-runner.
5. Over his last 14 games, Welker has four touchdown catches. Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are all better red-zone targets.

On Tuesday, McDaniels was asked about Welker’s reduced role. Here’s what he had to say:

“Wes’ role is the same as we’ve always gone. We’ll go each week and try to do what we think is best to help us win. Sometimes that may include playing more multiple tight ends. Sometimes it might be playing a lot more receivers. We kind of try to feel that out as we go through our preparation and then make the decisions that go along with it.”

In other words, McDaniels says matchups dictated offensive focal points. OK.

However, that doesn’t explain why backup slot man Julian Edelman rotated in for 23 snaps. Top beat writer Mike Reiss says it “makes one wonder if it’s the potential beginning of a less Welker-centric attack.” The contract situation (point 3 above) certainly lends some credence to that theory.

The bottom line is that the Patriots are always dictating game-plans based on matchups and other factors. But previously, those plans always included Welker playing on almost every down as a featured player. It’s only one week -- and selling low is an awful idea -- but owners need to be prepared for a regression here.

Editor's note: For Week 2 rankings, an exclusive chat with Evan Silva, IDP thoughts, weekly projections, top-200 going forward lists and much more, check out the Season Pass!

The Packers were forced to release an injury report on Monday night because they play on Thursday this week. That’s when we first found out about Greg Jennings’ groin issue.

Jennings was held out of practice on Tuesday and the Packers are unsure how he will respond to rehab. Considering the short week and the emergence of James Jones/Randall Cobb, don’t be surprised if Jennings is held out. In that case, Jones would be a must-start in most formats.

It’s not really news, but the Bills obviously confirmed that C.J. Spiller is going to be the feature back while Fred Jackson (knee) is out. I just wanted to throw some numbers at you here.

Over his last 17 games, Spiller has averaged 6.03 yards per carry. When Jackson missed the final six games of last season, Spiller averaged 105.5 total yards per game and scored five touchdowns. Against the Jets on Sunday, Spiller forced eight missed tackles on 16 touches. No other player in the league forced more than six missed tackles.

Simply put, Spiller is a unique, explosive talent. Perhaps he should have been starting ahead of Jackson anyway.

Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Jonathan Dwyer has earned a bigger role. He’s better than Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall (knee) isn’t ready yet. Deep leaguers should buy up. … T.J. Graham, a healthy scratch last week, will be active for Week 2 thanks to David Nelson’s ACL tear. … Taiwan Jones is in the doghouse after muffing a pitch Monday night. Darren McFadden has no clear handcuff.

Jacoby Ford needs foot surgery. He’s out indefinitely. … Jake Locker (shoulder) is set to practice with a brace on his left side. He should be fine for Sunday. … Denarius Moore (hamstring) was “very close” to playing on Monday. It’s a good sign he’ll suit up come Week 2. … John Skelton (ankle) will reportedly miss 2-4 weeks. It’s the Kevin Kolb show. … Golden Tate (knee) hasn’t been ruled out for Week 2. If active, he’d rotate with Braylon Edwards.

Ryan Mathews (clavicle) hasn’t been cleared for contract just yet. The Chargers are taking it day by day. … Bernard Scott (hand) appears on track to be ready for Week 2. … Jonathan Stewart (ankle) remains questionable. The Panthers are desperate to get him back after their backs combined for one yard on seven carries last week.

Adding a different D/ST each week based on matchups is a fine strategy. Here are three units that might be on waivers to consider for streaming purposes:

* For more waiver thoughts at all positions, check out Chris Wesseling’s latest here.

1. BENGALS vs. Browns - In Week 1, Brandon Weeden played the quarterback position as bad as you can play it and Trent Richardson (knee) couldn’t make anyone miss. Now they have to go on the road to face a Bengals team that is angry after getting embarrassed on Monday Night Football.

2. REDSKINS at Rams - For the record, this is a prime letdown spot for the ‘Skins. But St. Louis’ offensive line is already in tatters and we know their passing game doesn’t threaten anyone. Expect a low-scoring game.

3.  RAIDERS at Dolphins - Much like the Redskins, the Raiders are in a tough spot. They dropped an emotional home opener on Monday night and now have to go across the country on a short week. Still, the Dolphins are a turnover waiting to happen. 

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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