Eddie Lacy entered Week 6 with just 257 rushing yards. He had only one touchdown in five games. The Chargers, who were allowing 5.1 yards per carry to running backs, were supposed to be the antidote. Instead they were the sedative, putting Lacy to sleep as backup James Starks exploded for 112 yards and a score on 10 carries.
Lacy took the rock four times for three yards, sucking his YPC below 4.0, and knee-capping fantasy owners who made him a top-five pick. Speaking afterward, coach Mike McCarthy made a few obvious admissions. Lacy’s ankle is still an issue, and Starks has been running better in practice.
This is now the second straight season we’ve been confronted with a Lacy/Starks timeshare crisis. Like last year’s, this one isn’t entirely convincing. Lacy is hurt. This isn’t good, but it’s not the same thing as not being good. Both the “eye test” and pre-2015 statistics tell us Lacy is an above-average back, a powerful runner with surprising quicks who wears down defenses as games and seasons progress. Starks, meanwhile, is an effective backup, but one who averaged 3.9 yards per carry last season.
Lacy isn’t battling some dynamic young upstart, but his own health. Thankfully, the corner should be close to being turned. Even though he was clearly still gimpy against the Chargers, Lacy was absent from the Week 6 injury report, and now has the Week 7 bye to heal up. I won’t pretend there’s nothing to worry about. Starks has simply been better through six games, and will get opportunities when the Packers return to face the Broncos on November 1. But Lacy remains the superior option, one the Pack will inevitably have to lean on the way they did in 2014. Lacy was one of the league’s very best players in games 9-16 last season, averaging 5.0 yards per carry as he rolled up 929 yards from scrimmage and scored nine touchdowns.
At age 25, Lacy’s prime has not come and gone. He’s killed you thus far, but patience remains the answer. The Packers need him just as much as you do. Just ask Aaron Rodgers. If you want to rush out and add Starks, that’s fine, but truth be told, you might be better off acquiring someone who can actually help you in Week 7. Maybe “Fat Eddie” will get committee'd for real this time. More than likely, he’ll finally be ready to fulfill his duties after a 13-day rest.
Five Week 6 Positives
Philip Rivers’ 500-yard day against the Packers. The Pack entered Week 6 allowing the third fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Dom Capers’ unit was surrendering a mere 186 weekly yards through the air, and allowing a 53.1 completion percentage and 6.4 YPA. Rivers took a blowtorch to the on-paper dominance, turning in the 17th 500-yard day in NFL history. Of course, the effort came in a loss, but was further confirmation that Rivers remains one of the league’s top players at age 33. Operating with his best supporting cast in quite some time, Rivers is angling for a top-five fantasy finish. He’s currently the QB3.
Martavis Bryant’s 2015 debut. For the second straight year, Bryant rose like a phoenix after a prolonged absence, catching 6-of-8 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s shock win over the Cardinals. That he did so with Michael Vick and Landry Jones at quarterback instead of Ben Roethlisberger further underscores his importance to an offense that could be the league’s best at full health. A red-zone dynamo who also makes big plays in the open field, Bryant is locked back in opposite Antonio Brown, and has a legit shot at every-week WR2 status. He should be on nary a bench in Week 7.
Lamar Miller’s return to form. Although he never came out and straight up said it, interim coach Dan Campbell spent the Dolphins’ bye week coming up with new and exciting ways to hint he was committing to the run. Sunday he did, giving Miller 19 carries, which the fourth-year back promptly turned into 113 yards. Absurdly, Miller entered Week 6 having surpassed 10 totes only once in four games. Now 15 should be the baseline, giving fantasy owners a badly-needed floor to go along with Miller’s ever-intriguing ceiling. Miller has averaged 4.6 yards per carry for his career. Unlike Joe Philbin, this isn’t a fact Campbell is going to forget.
Stefon Diggs’ seizure of No. 2 status in Minnesota. Diggs has been active for just 2-of-5 games, but is only 40 receiving yards behind Mike Wallace for the team lead. Filling in for Charles Johnson, Diggs has blown by his teammate in every meaningful category, posting a 13/216/0 line compared to Johnson’s 6/46/0. A YAC machine with play-making ability that belies his 6-foot-0 frame and 4.46 speed, Diggs has locked himself in opposite Wallace, and perhaps as the Vikings’ slot receiver of the future.
Ronnie Hillman’s 100-yard day. Hillman hasn’t had a perfect season, but where C.J. Anderson has struggled in every spot, Hillman took advantage of a great matchup against the Browns, rushing 20 times for 111 yards. Hillman now has two 100-yard games in three weeks, and 143 more yards than Anderson on the season. Hillman’s 4.9 YPC is over two yards better than Anderson’s. Anderson nearly saved the Broncos’ season in 2014, but now it’s Hillman’s turn. He’ll be an RB2 when Denver comes off its Week 7 bye.
Five Week 6 Negatives
The Colts’ “fake punt” in the second half of last night’s loss. Having Griff Whalen snap the ball to Colt Anderson isn’t a “fake punt.” It’s a deathwish. And that’s with a standard line. Letting it happen with the dynamic duo squared up all alone against three defenders is something else entirely. It’s certainly not football, or something anyone qualified to coach an NFL team should ever let happen on their watch. Chuck Pagano did, giving the best offense in the NFL the ball at the Colts’ 36. Tom Brady and LeGarrette Blount needed only three minutes and 12 seconds to engineer the ensuing game-sealing score. Thankfully for the Colts, the loss hardly dented their chances in the pathetic AFC South, but Pagano is looking more and more out of his depth.
Melvin Gordon’s benching. Gordon entered the league with a reputation for fumbling. He’s lived up to it, putting the ball on the ground four times through his first six NFL games. The fourth got him benched for the final 36 minutes of Sunday’s thriller against the Packers. Gordon is a home run hitter — his five runs of 20-plus yards are only one fewer than Le’Veon Bell’s league-leading total — but he also strikes out too much. Gordon is averaging 3.8 yards per carry, and getting stuffed for too many go-nowhere runs. The Bolts are 11th in the league in points, but their rookie back has yet to score a touchdown. Gordon is the kind of player who could ignite and carry your team down the stretch, but at least for the time being, he’d ideally be your RB3 instead of RB2.
Peyton Manning’s ongoing struggles. Making like Kirk Cousins’ richer uncle, Manning has tossed at least one pick in every game, and seven over his past three starts. His passes need connecting flights to the sideline, and mid-air refuelings down the seam. Manning is playing just well enough for any talk of benching to be premature, but that’s in real life, not fantasy. You probably already knew this before Week 6, but Manning is no longer an every-week starter. He must be paired with other quarterbacks and streamed. Even that is optimistic, as Manning hasn’t taken advantage of good matchups. Dropping the future Hall-of-Famer is justifiable.
Marcus Mariota’s injury/stalled progress. Mariota has only five touchdowns since his four-score Week 1. Now he needs an MRI on his left knee. If there’s good news, it’s that he played through the injury in Sunday’s loss, but that doesn’t mean Monday testing won’t discover an ailment that requires a multi-week absence. Struggling more than expected and rushing less than expected, Mariota’s upside isn’t what his Week 1 shellacking of the Bucs suggested. Mariota is a rookie, and the Bucs are the Bucs.
Dion Lewis’ seven-touch night. This is the danger with Lewis. Lewis’ weekly touch floor is higher than Shane Vereen’s was, but that doesn’t mean the bottom won’t occasionally fall out. It’s a risk for any pass-catching back, even one as good as Lewis has been. He’s averaging just eight rushes through five games, and 6.3 since LeGarrette Blount’s return. Lewis is still a legitimate RB2, but probably flying too close to the sun as an RB1.
1. Was the Titans’ Super Bowl win over the Bucs really that long ago?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Stats of the Week
Keenan Allen is already 76.7 percent of the way to his 2014 receiving total.
Andy Dalton is tied for second in touchdowns (14), but just 27th in interceptions (two). Is this a new human?
Devonta Freeman’s nine rushing touchdowns would have tied for third in 2014.
Peyton Manning has as many interceptions as he did in all of 2013, but 48 fewer touchdowns.
Sunday was Matthew Stafford’s first four-touchdown performance since Week 6, 2013, and just his second since 2011.
Colin Kaepernick’s 340 yards passing were the third most of his career. It’s a remarkable feat considering Kaep appeared on the verge of being benched two weeks ago.
Gary Barnidge Watch
Still the best player in the NFL.