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Ray Rice's Regression

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Ray Rice's Regression
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Patrick Daugherty looks into the struggles of Ray Rice and Trent Richardson while breaking down the week …

Ray Rice was the No. 7 player by ADP this summer. Trent Richardson, No. 8. Sunday, they combined for 32 yards on 23 carries (1.39 YPC). That’s an average not even Chris Johnson could love, but hardly a surprise for a duo that entered Week 10 with 612 combined rushing yards on 211 carries (2.90 YPC). So basically, it’s the end of the world as Rice and Richardson’s fantasy owners know it. The question is, is there any reason — any reason at all — to feel fine?


With Richardson, the answer appears to be a resounding no. Displaying almost mind-boggling hesitance at the point of attack, T-Rich continues to let defenders wrap him up before he even tries to make his first cut. Recognizing this, the Colts had pledged to make a more concerted effort to get Richardson out in space.


That’s exactly what they did on two of his first three carries against the Rams, and he responded by “gaining” zero and zero yards. T-Rich’s other three totes went for -3, zero and five yards. This was against a run defense that entered Week 10 allowing 4.4 yards per carry. Three catches for 33 yards gave Richardson 35 yards from scrimmage, but that’s still 28 fewer than Donald Brown managed. Astoundingly, Richardson has now been out-gained by Brown in two of his past three games, and three of his past six. We’re talking Dammit Donald Brown. If there’s light at the end of the tunnel, it’s flickering like a 2.98 watt bulb.


Rice? Well things are even more depressing here, not just because Rice is a once-proud player, but because he’s actually been worse than Richardson. Rice entered Week 10 averaging fewer yards per carry (2.67) than every qualified running back not named Willis McGahee. He exits it averaging 2.51. As in a two followed by a dot by a five by a one. It’s futility that makes even Peyton Hillis nervously shift in his chair as he pretends to text so as to avoid eye contact with the other running back in the room. Rice was so bad Sunday, Ravens beat writer Matt Vensel compared him to the little brother from “A Christmas Story.”


Maybe it’s his hip, maybe it’s his past workloads, maybe it’s his offensive line. Maybe it’s everything at once. Whatever it is, there’s no reason to expect things to get better, even against a Bears defense in Week 11 that’s allowed 900 yards rushing to running backs over its past six games. At best Rice and Richardson are low-end FLEX options you can’t start with much confidence. At worst, they’re pure bench fodder who would be relegated to the McGahee recesses of your roster if not for their names.      


So yes, it’s the end of the world as we know it. Why would anyone ever feel fine about that again?   


Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 11. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.


Three Down


1. Andy Dalton


We’d like to think people change. The same is true of football players. Two weeks ago, we thought maybe there was a chance Dalton had changed. Not in the sense that he was a completely different quarterback, but maybe just a slightly more predictable one. The out-of-nowhere peaks wouldn’t be followed by such mind-numbing valleys. Alas, 10 days after taking a walk-off safety, Dalton served notice that his Week 6-8 hot streak was like all the ones before it: A mirage. There were under-throws, over-throws, Eli Manning throws. Granted, Dalton was facing a feisty defense on the road in a divisional blood feud, but 24-of-51? That’s enough to put his three-game hot streak out of sight, out of mind. Dalton is who we thought he was, even if sometimes he makes us forget.    


2. Terrelle Pryor


Regressing for weeks now, Pryor hit rock bottom as he played through a sprained MCL in Sunday’s loss. Pryor showed stunningly little pocket awareness, holding onto the ball for too long, and bailing seemingly at random. When Pryor did roll out, he continued to be maddeningly indecisive, sticking himself in no man’s land instead of committing to the run or pass. Now 61-of-120 (50.8%) for 714 yards (5.95 YPA), one touchdown and eight interceptions over his past four starts, Pryor can’t even fall back on his legs to save his fantasy value as he plays through his knee injury. The first-year starter has taken fantasy owners on a nice ride to his point in time, but the fun is over.  


3. The Entire Falcons Offense


Matt Ryan has no one to throw to. Steven Jackson has nothing left. Tony Gonzalez is hurt. Roddy White might still be hurt. Julio Jones is … well we don’t even want to think about that. What was supposed to be one of the league’s biggest fantasy bonanzas is now one of its No. 1 wastelands, with no help in sight. It’s already too late to sell high on any of the parties involved, but selling low — and hoping someone sees a name instead of their numbers — wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.  


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Three Up


1. Tavon Austin


First things first, let’s not get carried away. Austin drew all of three targets in the passing game Sunday. Nevertheless, he turned them into two catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns — two scintillating touchdowns — and flashed the kind of play-making ability he showed on the reg at West Virginia. When you add in his 98-yard punt-return touchdown, total return yardage and four-yard rush, you get 314 all-purpose yards from the No. 8 overall pick of the draft. Not by any stretch does it mean Austin can suddenly be trusted as a WR3, but if you’ve got an open roster spot, you might as well add a guy coming off one of the best individual efforts by any player in the NFL this season.


2. Jarrett Boykin


Many wrote Boykin off after his one-catch, 15-yard Week 9, including this author. The fill-in jig was supposed to be up with Seneca Wallace under center. No one said anything about Scott Tolzien, however. Working primarily with Tolzien on Sunday, Boykin not only bounced back for eight catches and a career-high 113 yards, he led the Pack with 13 targets. That kind of success should never be expected for a No. 3 wideout playing with his No. 3 quarterback, but Boykin merits re-adding as a WR4 fill-in if he was tossed back to your league’s waiver wire following Monday’s dispiriting loss.  


3. Andre Brown


Brown entered Week 10 on a “snap count.” He exited it with 31 touches, a new career high in rushing yards and a firm grip on the Giants’ No. 1 job. What Brown lacks in special qualities, he makes up for it with hard-boiled competence. He’s a vast improvement on damaged goods Brandon Jacobs, and rusted-out truck Peyton Hillis. Brown will be more of a FLEX option than RB2, but he’s a pair of fresh legs both fantasy owners and the Giants should be able to rely on down the stretch.  


Questions


1. C.J. Spiller, why must you do this to me?


2. So, uhh, Colts, what the hell?


3. Dallas, you are aware that game was being televised, right?


Stats of the Week


The Saints’ 40 first downs Sunday night? Yeah, they were the most in NFL history.


The 626 yards the Saints gained Sunday night? Yeah, they were the most the Cowboys have given up in franchise history.


Tony Romo’s 128 passing yards were his fewest in a non-injury shortened game since Week 2, 2009.


Eli Manning’s pick six was the 17th of his career. That’s … a lot.


With 56.3 percent of the season in the books, Peyton Manning remains on pace to rewrite the record book with 5,776 yards passing and 59 touchdowns. That would be 1,117 more yards and 22 more touchdowns than he threw for in 2012.


Alfred Morris’ 91.7 rushing yards per game are the second most in the league, but by all means, keep bringing up Roy Helu and Darrel Young.


Morris and Terrelle Pryor are the only two players in the league with at least eight rushes of 20-plus yards.


Andre Johnson is on pace for his fourth 1,500-yard season.


Case Keenum and Nick Foles are the combined owners of a 23:0 TD:INT ratio. That one probably would have sounded weird in August.


Keenum has just two fewer passing touchdowns than both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick.  


Awards Section


The Sure, Ok, Why Not Award: Mark Ingram carrying the ball 14 times for 145 yards against the Cowboys. Sure, ok. Why not. Why shouldn’t Mark Ingram have had the first 100-yard game of his career completely out of nowhere in a nationally-televised game in the middle of the season. Makes sense when you think about it (it doesn’t make sense when you think about it).


The Well This Further Complicates Things Award: Jake Locker suffering yet another significant injury. In theory, it makes things easier for the Titans: He can’t be trusted as a franchise quarterback. In practice, however, there are few thornier issues than deciding when to throw in the towel on a first-round quarterback. Tennessee’s decision will be a tough, and fascinating, one.


The Ryan Mathews’ Career In A Nutshell Award: Ryan Mathews tied his career-long run of 39 yards (!) on Sunday. Only he didn’t. It was called back by penalty. Said run could have also been longer, but Mathews stumbled and fell down. He hurt himself in the process. Ryan Mathews’ career in a nutshell.  


Week 10 Fantasy All Pro Team: QB Drew Brees, RB LeSean McCoy, RB Mark Ingram, WR Demaryius Thomas, WR Tavon Austin, WR Brandon Marshall, TE Julius Thomas, TE John Carlson   


Sell High: RB Andre Brown — Brown is going to be a fantasy asset for the season’s stretch run. But he’s going to be a mid-range FLEX option, not the RB2 he produced as on Sunday. If Brown was the No. 3 running back you’ve been waiting for, by all means, keep him. But if he’s someone you picked up off the waiver wire as your No. 5 running back, trade him to someone searching for a savior. WR Tavon Austin — Austin certainly earned himself more snaps and targets in Sunday’s win, but as we outlined above, it’s not like he can suddenly be counted on as a WR3. If you’ve held onto him for all this time, see if you can turn him into someone you might be more compelled to use on a weekly basis.  


Buy Low: QB Andrew Luck — One of fantasy land’s favorite players to panic over, owners will presumably spend the week fretting about Luck’s lack of weapons and his poor performance against a bad team. Take advantage of them by acquiring an every-week QB1. WR Cecil Shorts — Some owners will see Shorts’ two catches for 42 yards in Sunday’s win and think it’s the new world order in Jacksonville’s post-Justin Blackmon offense. That couldn’t be further from the truth for the No. 1 receiver on a team that’s still going to be playing from behind for a vast majority of the stretch run. Shorts’ numbers will be there.


Most Absurd Moment(s) Of Week 10 Award: Nick Foles getting not one, but two deep-ball touchdowns on passes that should have been picked off in double coverage.


Least Valuable Player, Non-Trent Richardson Division: Rashard Mendenhall, whose No. 1 contribution in his return from a toe injury was a fumble deep in Cardinals territory.   


Well played, Rob Ryan, well played.

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