By: C.J. Doon
Just a few weeks ago, everybody – myself include – was gushing about Robert Griffin III. And why shouldn’t they? The rookie QB and reigning Heisman Trophy winner ignited the Redskins franchise, leading the team to 3 wins in their first six games. Over the course of those six games, Griffin passed for over 1,300 yards, threw five touchdown passes, and scored another six touchdowns on the ground – all while leading the league in completion percentage.
Talking heads and football pundits everywhere declared RG3 the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, and it seemed as if the Redskins were poised to make some noise in the NFL with Griffin at the helm. Then the Skins lost three straight, and soon people began to talk more about Griffin’s concussion issues rather than his electric play on the field.
While Griffin’s stock was falling, Andrew Luck was leading the Colts to three straight victories, putting Indianapolis at 5-3, and sitting very comfortably atop the AFC Wild Card in a wide open playoff race. Since head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, the Colts have played inspired football and are well on their way to becoming one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
The biggest reason for the Colts’ improvement is rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Remember folks, the Colts were a dismal 3-13 last season, and now just one year later, they’re competing for a spot in the…playoffs?! Luck – whom the Colts believed in so fervently that they parted ways with franchise quarterback and all-time great Peyton Manning – has been nothing short of brilliant this season. The numbers: 2,404 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, and a completion percentage of 56.5%. Luck’s total QBR of 76.1 ranks in the Top 5 in the league, putting him ahead of stars like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Eli Manning.
The craziest Andrew Luck stat of all? Courtesy of ESPN’s Adam Schefter: Peyton Manning’s passing yards through eight games: 2,404. Andrew Luck’s passing yards through eight games: 2,404. Broncos’ record: 5-3. Colts’ record: 5-3.
Surely you must be thinking that Luck vs. Griffin will ultimately decide the Rookie of the Year in 2012, right? Well, you’d be wrong. A dark horse has emerged, and is taking the league – and fantasy football owners – by storm. Who could it be?
It’s none other than Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past two weeks – or simply don’t have power thanks to Hurricane Sandy – you’ve missed out on two of the most spectacular performances by a running back, let alone a ROOKIE running back, in the last few years. In his last two games, Martin has rushed for over 380 yards and five touchdowns, and has caught seven passes for 100 yards and a score. This past Sunday against the Raiders, Martin scampered for 251 yards on seven carries, and was the first running back in the history of the NFL to score three touchdowns of 45 yards or more. He also set Buccaneers’ franchise records for most rushing yards and touchdowns in a single game.
Martin’s performance translated to a whopping 51 fantasy points, the largest such total since Michael Vick’s 49-point effort against the Redskins in 2010. If you had Martin in your starting lineup, congratulations! If you had to go up against somebody with Martin in their starting lineup, my condolences. And if you had Martin on your bench…let’s just say fantasy football isn’t exactly your “thing”.
Now, onto this week’s edition of Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em!
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts – See Luck, Andrew above.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons – After two rough weeks against Oakland and Philly with a bye week sandwiched between, “Turner the Burner” rumbled for 102 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries Sunday night against the Cowboys. Up next for Turner and the Falcons are the New Orleans Saints, who allow close to 180 yards rushing/game. Although the Saints have been steadily improving over the past few weeks, the Saint’s defense still ranks dead last in the NFL in Yards/Game. Look for Turner to run wild down on the Bayou.
Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell, RBs, Detroit Lions – Against the Jaguars, Leshoure and Bell combined for over 140 yards and four touchdowns, leading Detroit to a 31-14 win. This week the Lions face off against the Vikings in a clash of two NFC North foes, which means the Lions will see a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson. The Lions will have to counter with their one-two punch of Bell and Leshoure to keep pace, which could lead to another big day for the Detroit’s dynamic duo. The Vikings surrendered more than 120 yards rushing and one touchdown to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch in Week 9, so Detroit’s backs could see some big holes on Sunday.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers – It’s been tough sledding for Mathews all season, and it’s not going to get easier anytime soon. This week, the Chargers travel to the East Coast to take on the Bucs, who own the league’s best defense against the run. How stingy is the Bucs’ defense? Through eight games, the Bucs have only allowed an opposing running back to rush for more than 100 yards twice, and have held opponents to less than 3.4 yards/carry. So, what happens when a struggling running back meets the league’s best defense? We’ll find out this Sunday.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs – When Matt Cassel is your starting quarterback, you’re probably not going to see many balls thrown your way. Bowe has only surpassed double digit fantasy points twice this season, and in his last four games, he has not scored more than 6 points. This week the dismal Chiefs take on the Steelers and the NFL’s best pass defense. Against the New York Giants, the Steelers held Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning to less than 130 yards passing and zero touchdowns, and kept Victor Cruz to a pedestrian 67 yards on five catches. Do yourself a favor, and drop Bowe.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans – One piece of advice: Do not start any offensive player facing the Bears’ defense. Just don’t do it. Last week against the Titans, Bears’ safety Charles Tillman forced four fumbles, Brian Urlacher returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown, and the special teams even blocked a punt for a touchdown for good measure. I know you might be tempted to play Johnson this week because of his breakout performance against Buffalo, but you have to realize that it’s going to get pretty ugly for the Texans on Sunday. Johnson may be on the verge of returning to last year’s production, but it’s not going to happen against the Bears.