Talk about the ups and downs of the NFL. Within minutes this Sunday, NFL fantasy fans celebrated the triumphant return of Adrian Peterson as he ended his first drive as a Cardinal with a 27-yard touchdown run before watching Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers carted off the field with a potentially season-ending injury.
The immediate impact of both developments was obvious. Peterson scored another touchdown and led the Cardinals to victory. Brett Hundley took over in Green Bay and struggled as you might expect against a top defense. There was never a moment in the game when it looked like he would lead the Packers to a win.
Replacing Aaron Rodgers on your NFL fantasy roster will warrant faith in an unproven or unlikely passer from what is left on the waiver wires or available via trade. If you are in the three percent of leagues where Adrian Peterson remained unowned before Sunday, congratulations.
But what about the players around these two stars? Good players make players around them better. Who gets better with Adrian in the lineup? Who gets worse without Aaron? Let’s look at the Arizona and Green Bay situations and what might be a new reality for NFL fantasy owners.
One man show excludes Andre Ellington
The most noticeable thing about the Cardinals’ offense is that they do not intend to use a committee approach to keep Peterson fresh. Adrian Peterson carried the ball on 26 of the 29 rushing plays designed for running backs. Peterson’s 57 yards on the first possession immediately put the Cardinals ahead of their season average of 52 rushing yards per game. Kerwynn Williams saw the other three carries, which is what we can expect from him.
More eye-opening was what became of the Cardinals’ passing-down back, Andre Ellington. Through five weeks, Ellington averaged 39 snaps and double-digit pass targets. He did not get a single touch or target this week, a development that cost PPR owners a major points contributor.
Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald stock rises
Arizona also saw the return of their left guard and tackle this week. That contributed mightily to Carson Palmer’s ability to stay upright for most of the game. He was still sacked twice, but he was not scrambling for his life. Another factor that helped Palmer is the legitimate threat of Peterson on play-action. Defenders waited for a split second to see who had the ball before dropping into coverage. That is all the time someone of Larry Fitzgerald’s caliber needs to get free.
Palmer only threw 22 passes. Half were thrown at Fitzgerald who caught ten for 138 yards and a touchdown. John Brown was targeted four times. No other receiver saw more than two targets. Respect for Adrian Peterson helps every receiver, but Palmer’s first look is always Fitzgerald. A legitimate running game increases Fitzgerald’s impact at the expense of Ellington, Jaron Brown and JJ Nelson.
What is the new norm?
History reminds us of Herschel Walker’s debut after the trade to Minnesota. He gained 98 yards on his first two carries and finished the game with 148. In 27 games that followed, he never ran for 100 yards again. This should be different. It is more likely Peterson becomes the latest veteran runner to find new life in Arizona.
What about everyone else? Will the old guys continue to dominate Arizona’s NFL fantasy points? Eventually, other players will find roles to keep the veterans fresh. Their second-half fade in this game shows the need. But I am not playing John or Jaron Brown, Nelson, or Ellington until we see it shake out.
After Patrick Peterson left the game with a quad injury Sunday, Tampa Bay scored 33 points in less than a half. Without the star cornerback, the Cards’ aged offensive trio will need to put as many points on the board against the Rams Sunday as they did this week and hope it is enough. We will soon see how their legs hold up and further adjust our NFL fantasy expectations.
Before you cut Jordy Nelson…
Green Bay fans are panicking after Brett Hundley’s relief performance Sunday. No one could be expected to play at the caliber of Aaron Rodgers, but three interceptions and a QBR of 9.5 will not cut it.
But before you go cutting all your Green Bay fantasy players and rule out Hundley for a roster position, consider this; Green Bay does not offer their backup quarterbacks practice snaps during the season. Hundley came in off the bench having not played a lick of football since the preseason.
Furthermore, the Packers’ offensive line fell apart in front of Hundley. Both starting tackles were lost by the second half and left guard Lane Taylor soon joined David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga on the sideline. Four sacks ensued as Hundley was dodging the Vikings’ pass rush throughout the game.
There is no reason to expect Hundley to look that bad next weekend. Even though the Saints have put up a top-three NFL fantasy D/ST score in three consecutive games, their rush is not on par with Minnesota. The Packers will adjust their game plan to cover deficiencies and the strengths of their young passer.
Hundley is not a bad passer, either. In his rookie year, He led all quarterbacks in preseason yardage and threw seven touchdowns with only one interception. His preseason stats the last two seasons were not quite as good, but still worthy of a professional NFL passer. Don’t be shocked if Brett Hundley looks like a different quarterback in Week 7 than what we saw this week.
What would surprise me is if the Packers bring in a veteran to take over. Coach Mike McCarthy announced that Hundley is the starting quarterback with Joe Callahan backing him up. Within minutes, there were articles written about why the Packers should sign Colin Kaepernick. Green Bay radio is asking if Wisconsin-native Tony Romo could lead the Pack to a championship. As wonderful as it would be to see Romo beat the Cowboys on the way to the Super Bowl, it is very unlikely. Romo makes good money, enjoys doing television, and no one hits him while he’s doing analysis.
So what changes in NFL fantasy?
No one could be blamed for sitting Green Bay receivers against the Saints. The Packers then have a bye week to further scheme and adapt. But I would play Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams this week. The Packers have to score points and even if the kid throws a bunch of interceptions, there have to be receptions, too.
Ty Montgomery’s injured ribs may prove to have been a blessing as it let the Packers realize they have bona fide running backs in rookies Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. With all three available, Green Bay can rotate in fresh running threats for the defense to worry about. Rushing the ball, play-action, options and rollouts should help the battered offensive line and quarterback.
Defenses will stack the box against Green Bay, daring Hundley to throw. Receivers of the caliber on Green Bay do well in one-on-one matchups. That makes me more prone to start Packers receivers, at least if I don’t have other good options. I would also start Jones and Montgomery if I don’t own a safer bet.
Hold onto all your Green Bay players. If you don’t have good options, it’s not a bad idea to play them in a potential shootout. Any quarterback forced to throw 30-40 times will complete enough passes. Your receivers don’t lose points for his errant tosses or interceptions.
My thinking is the same with Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones. They should see more touches, including check downs and screens designed to help Hundley with the pass rush.
It’s always something in NFL fantasy football. Be sure to follow us at RealSport for all your updates and advice as the season unfolds. And send any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll post the answers in our weekly NFL Fantasy Mailbag on Wednesdays.
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