Week 7: Player Downgrades
Player Downgrades is a column focused on a handful of players who are losing fantasy value. Rather than discuss injured players, these guys are healthy and getting playing time, but are still underachieving. It's ultimately up to you whether you decide to bench, trade away, or drop them.
The Green Bay Packers have now won 12 straight games going back to their 2010 season. That streak includes four playoff games and six road games. Behind them, five teams have only one loss. On the opposite end of the spectrum, every team in the AFC South has lost their last game. Fourteen teams have losing records and already look like huge longshots at making a playoff run. It's certainly a have or have-not season.
This same logic applies to fantasy football. There is a very clear top tier consisting of few players and if you don't have any of them, this season won't end well for you.
The Baltimore Ravens' offense is at its best when Ray Rice is banging on all cylinders and Flacco is converting third downs and moving the chains. The point being that the Ravens prefer to possess the ball, run it down people's throats and occasionally attack downfield with a big throw. Flacco was back on everyone's radar after his Week 3 performance against the St. Louis Rams. He and Torrey Smith connected on three first half TDs and everybody was riding high on the Flacco bandwagon. Since then, he was basically shut-out against the Jets and most recently held in check by a resurgent Texans' defense. The truth is what you already should've known. Flacco is a spot-start and there's a reason he's never broken through as a Top 10 QB. You won't be able to rely on him every week.
Bush scored in three consecutive games from Week 2 to Week 5. More impressively, the Raiders were playing the Bills, Jets, and Patriots in those games (giving the impression that not only was the Raiders' running game fierce, but that Bush was a viable flex play in most fantasy leagues). The truth is that Bush is only averaging 10 touches per game, which just isn't enough to make a consistent impact every week. If you're holding onto Bush as more than just an injury replacement, you're wasting a perfectly good roster spot. The Raiders certainly are a team that loves to run the ball, in fact they run the ball the most of any team in the league (31.7 carries per game). Bush has only scored two fantasy points in standard scoring, non-PPR leagues in his last two games. It's time to move on.
Bush had a good start to the season with 94 total yards and a touchdown in Miami's Week 1 loss to the Patriots. Since then, he's been a non-factor, ranging anywhere from seven to 15 touches per game with limited yards. Rookie Daniel Thomas appears to be healthy again and when he did play during Weeks 2 and 3, he played very well. Throughout Bush's career, he's played his best as a second or third option on offense. He can't perform consistently as the primary ball-carrier and that's not a knock on his talent. The Dolphins are in big trouble with Chad Henne out and Matt Moore leading the way. This downgrade could potentially apply to the whole offense, but Bush is a player owned in many leagues who is likely riding the pine for most owners. Don't feel too attached to Bush since his role in this offense will be on a sharp downward trend with a healthy Thomas back.
Burress was shaping up like a decent WR3 or flex play after the first three weeks of the season. He was shut out in Week 2, but in the first and third weeks of the season he grabbed seven catches for 127 yards and two scores combined. Although the targets are still going his way (16 in his last two games), Burress isn't much of a downfield threat -- which is where the big points typically are for wide receivers. The Jets are known for their run-heavy offense, but they are actually only running the ball 23.4 times per game. That's the seventh-lowest total in the NFL. A lot of this has to do with the fact they've lost their last three games and have been playing from behind and that trend should continue. Burress still has yet to play his Week 6 game against the Miami Dolphins and the Jets should be looking to reestablish their run game in order to get back on track.
If you're owning and starting Knox, this isn't your year. Knox is putting up garbage numbers in 2011, averaging less than three receptions and just about 50 yards per game. He hasn't reached the end zone and is on pace for his worst season yet. The Bears' passing attack is led by Matt Forte. He is already up to 36 receptions for 381 yards and a TD. Obviously Cutler isn't finding much traction downfield. Knox is the team's fourth-leading receiver behind the aforementioned Forte, Devin Hester, and Dane Sanzenbacher. The important thing here is that you want to be adding a player who receives more targets per game than Knox, who will be lucky to have one game with 7-plus receptions. Knox is a deep-threat and with no offensive line available to protect him for that long, Jay Cutler doesn't have the time to find this third-year receiver.
Despite being nearly universally drafted during the preseason, Winslow has been unable to reach pay dirt and actually peaked in Week 1 with six receptions for 66 yards against the Lions. It doesn't help matters now that running back LeGarrette Blount is dealing with injuries. Rather than idly standing by in hopes he'll turn it around, Winslow should be moved to the bench or waiver wire. The Bucs are even scoring 20 points per game, yet have still managed a 4-2 record. The Bucs' fragmented success and (therefore) Winslow's fantasy prospects are a fluke at best.