Adam Levitan

Football Daily Dose

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Three Rivers to Run

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Back in the preseason, Evan Royster was battling Roy Helu and some guy named Alfred Morris for the Redskins’ starting running back job. Savvy fantasy owners didn’t ignore the situation because they knew that whoever won the gig would produce in a big way. Fast forward nine weeks and Alf is the No. 7 fantasy running back in standard-scoring formats.

A similar situation appears to be emerging in Pittsburgh now. Under new OC Todd Haley, the Steelers are running the ball with a purpose and using a “dink and dunk” kind of passing game. It’s a far cry from the recent schemes we saw out of vertical-minded ex-coordinator Bruce Arians -- who is now putting up big numbers in Indy.

Anyway, the point is that it hasn’t mattered who is getting the carries for the Steelers. Jonathan Dwyer was once thought of as a plodding power back, but he’s ripping off 5.15 YPC this season. Isaac Redman looked like a world-beater against the Giants, rushing 26 times for 147 yards with a touchdown. Rashard Mendenhall only played one full game, but he ran through massive holes to post a 13/68/0 line in that one.

Credit the offensive line. A once-maligned unit for the Steelers, fill-in RG Ramon Foster and fill-in RT Mike Adams have been dominant in the run game. We know Maurkice Pouncey is an All-Pro at center. LG Willie Colon and LT Max Starks are also better when run blocking. Sense a theme here?

All this brings us to the injury report. Redman is healthy and Dwyer (quad) is fully expected to return this week. Mendenhall (Achilles’) is officially questionable, but the Steelers can afford to give him some more time off. So in Week 10 against the lowly Chiefs, expect a hot-hand approach with Dwyer mostly on early downs and Redman in passing situations. Both could end up as flex plays in this dream matchup.

Here’s coach Mike Tomlin on the situation:

"I really think it's that simple. Whoever's effective, they'll get the ball."

In the long run, the man for the Steelers and fantasy owners is Mendenhall. He gives them the most upside as the only one with real speed and game-breaking ability. These gaping holes being generated by the offensive line would be best exploited by Mendy. Stash him for the stretch run.

Andy Reid slept on his loss to New Orleans Monday night, woke up Tuesday and reiterated that he’s sticking with Michael Vick -- at least until the 3-5 Eagles are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

To me, it’s the wrong move for numerous reasons:

1. We’ve seen enough of Michael Vick recently to know he can’t get it done. Over Vick’s last 21 games, he’s 10-11 and has turned the ball over 32 times.

2. We can’t just blindly blame the offensive line. When Vick comes to the line, shouldn’t he be adjusting protections? Shouldn’t he be pointing out blitzers? Shouldn’t he be finding his hot receivers quickly?

3. Vick is almost certainly done as an Eagle after this season and they aren’t going to make the playoffs. So why not turn to Nick Foles and see what you have? Reid could sell owner Jeffery Lurie on his ability to work with a budding young quarterback.

4. I’m not saying Foles will do any better, but we know Vick can’t win with this team. And again, just note Foles’ “meaningless” preseason stats: 40-of-63 for 553 yards with six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 110.1 passer rating.

Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) owners should not be encouraged by recent developments. He continues to be ruled out very early each week. He’s still getting around with a cart. The Jags have no target date for his return. He feels he’s underpaid -- will he really rush back for a 1-7 team?

I’m not saying Jones-Drew should be dropped in any format, but owners can’t expect him back anytime soon.

The Packers will stick with their committee approach at running back. James Starks gets the early-down work and Alex Green gets the passing snaps. … The plan in Week 9 was to rotate Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson evenly at X. The upside here is capped while sharing snaps, although Hankerson is the Skins’ preferred option in the red zone. … David Gettis (hamstring) is off PUP, but he’ll be limited to spot duty. … The Chiefs claim that they want to get Jon Baldwin more involved the rest of the way. … The Vikings say they want Kyle Rudolph to be a part of their passing game. Believe it when you see it.

Donnie Avery (hip) practiced Tuesday and is shaping up as a game-time call for Thursday. T.Y. Hilton speculators, stay tuned. … Pierre Garcon said there’s been no miracle with his foot. It’s not official yet, but it sounds like Garcon is preparing to go under the knife. … Antonio Brown (ankle) is almost certainly out of Week 10. I like speedy Emmanuel Sanders as a WR3 play. He played on 56-of-70 snaps in Week 9. … Stevie Johnson (thigh) may take it easy in practice this week, but he’ll be fine for Sunday. He just has a bruise. … Jake Locker (shoulder) has been cleared for practice and will split reps this week.

DeMarco Murray (foot) is not expected to return this week. He hasn’t even practiced since going down in Week 6. There could be something the Cowboys aren’t telling us here. … Aaron Hernandez (ankle, personal) was not spotted at practice as the Patriots came out of their bye. It could be because his daughter was born Tuesday. Beanie Wells (toe) confirmed there’s “no doubt” he’ll be back for Week 12. … Jimmy Graham confirmed he was finally able to push off his tender ankle Monday night. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leads all tight ends in scoring the rest of the way. … Donald Brown (knee) did not practice Tuesday and it looks like he’ll sit Thursday. Consider Vick Ballard a RB2 candidate.

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. STEELERS vs. Chiefs - The Chiefs have become the team to target every week when streaming D/ST. Hopefully you took the advice last week and rode the Chargers’ two defensive touchdowns to a win. Matt Cassel has 18 turnovers in just seven games this year. Even Michael Vick thinks that’s embarrassing.

2. SEAHAWKS vs. Jets - Yes, the Jets should be fresh and focused coming out of their bye. They still have to fly across the country to play in the most hostile environment in the NFL. It’s a recipe for disaster for both Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene’s mirage of strong play.   

3. DOLPHINS vs. Titans - We don’t know if Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker will start for the Titans, but it doesn’t really matter. On the road especially, they are both 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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