As little sense as it made for Adrian Peterson to be signed by the New Orleans Saints in the offseason, his mid-season trade to the Arizona Cardinals was brilliant. The Cards couldn’t find a running threat to replace David Johnson and Peterson couldn’t find running opportunities in the Saints’ scheme. When Peterson went off for 134 rushing yards in his Week 6 Arizona debut, the Cardinals went from a team that was too old to compete, to a team that was old and playing for a title. Steve Keim was a potential GM of the year.
Then came Week 7. It was Peterson’s second trip to London this season. Perhaps it was jet lag. Perhaps it was part of the LA Rams 2017 magic. But “All Day” changed his name to “not today” while rushing for 21 yards on 11 carries. Was Peterson going to be a dud? Was he a one-week wonder?
Questions about what Adrian Peterson would bring to the table the rest of the season lingered through the bye week. Despite facing one of the worst run defenses in NFL fantasy, a solid 20% of Peterson’s owners benched him for Week 9. That would prove to be a mistake. Peterson carried the ball 37 times and gained 159 yards. A fumble and no touchdowns held down his fantasy point total, but he remains a top-ten NFL fantasy running back over the past four weeks even though he was on a bye for one of them.
Is that the real Adrian Peterson? Did he make himself a must-start with his Week 9 performance?
Is three weeks enough to tell?
Coach Bruce Arians wasted no time leaking his intention to run Adrian Peterson just as much this week against Seattle. 30-40 carries should be enough to make anyone a viable starter. But can Peterson really carry that kind of load at age 32? Two of his last three seasons were cut short by injury. There are those who argue not to push him as he seems to be getting fragile in the later phases of his illustrious career. Others argue he is well-rested and that his football years are lower because of the time missed.
If attitude and ambition were the only requirements to be a workhorse, Peterson would be a no-brainer. He wants the ball 40 times a game. He insists he is in great shape and can handle whatever the Cardinals ask of him. New Orleans coach Sean Payton told the Cardinals as much at the time of the trade. Peterson was a victim of numbers and scheme with the Saints. But Payton told Arians his team was in awe of what Peterson could do physically.
But… the Seahawks?
Peterson and the Cardinals face a strong foe in a Thursday Night Football matchup with Seattle. The Seahawks have turned their rushing defense around, allowing less than 3.0 yards per carry over the last four games.
Russell Wilson has picked up his game, too, except for last week’s effort against the Washington Redskins. The possibility exists, though, that Seattle can put a few scores up early against the Cardinals’ suspect secondary. That could force the Cardinals out of their run-first scheme, taking the ball out of Peterson’s hands.
Then there is the question of fatigue. What happened in London? Was it a credit to the Rams’ defense? That would be a stretch as they have one of the poorest NFL fantasy defenses against running backs in the league. Does the veteran running back need a full week to rest without a transatlantic flight to put together a solid running effort? Thursday could be a repeat of London.
So, is he a must start?
Adrian Peterson is a world-class athlete. By all accounts, he is as good a shape as he ever has been. In a short week, it is possible he will be tired, but no more tired than every other player on the field. Seattle played a much more physical game than the Cardinals in Week 9. London will prove to be a fluke.
The matchup with Seattle worries me more than Adrian Peterson’s ability. If the Cardinals really run him another 37 times, even a 3.0 yards per carry average makes him a must-play. The risk is in the potential of a shootout for Arizona. Peterson will sit if it becomes a passing game.
The risk is worth it. Unless you have a pair of high-end running backs to replace him with. You have to put Peterson into the lineup this week. The rest of the schedule does not offer any additional schedule quirks. He should not see your bench for the rest of the season.
Adrian Peterson is a must-start for the rest of the year; albeit with just a tad bit of trepidation this week.
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