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Disaster Recovery: The Playoff Panic

Michael Thomas New Orleans Saints

Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds.

This isn't a place to find out why you should have benched a player for somebody on your bench. Disaster Recovery is to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about benching, and deciding if you should be panicking at all about their value moving forward.

Typically, we cover one dud per week and discuss in-depth what happened and how concerned we should be. With the playoffs on the horizon and a surprising amount of Week 13 duds on the table, we're going to switch things up a bit by placing a few players into three different tiers based on how concerned we should be.

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Start Your Studs

Despite a disappointing week, these players should not be removed from your lineup under any circumstances.

Tyreek Hill & Julio Jones

We'll group these two together due to the past few weeks for each of them. Hill had 332 yards and four touchdowns in his previous two games and Jones was coming off six straight 100-plus yard performances before their respective duds this week. No need to panic whatsoever. Both are by far the most lethal options in each of their respective offenses. There's no reason to consider taking either out of your lineup.

David Johnson

Despite a mini-breakout game from backup running back Chase Edmonds, Johnson is in no danger of losing touches. The Cardinals have too much invested in their franchise back. He's the future of their offense.

Still, the obvious concerns remain with Johnson. The Cardinals offense is horrible. They have no passing game whatsoever. Defenses can simply gameplan for Johnson and Johnson alone, and it's shown in the stat sheet. But Johnson has remained a top-15 running back in PPR despite all of this. He's clawed his way to as many yards as he can muster up in this abysmal offense. He's still gotten at least 19 touches in every game since Byron Leftwich took over as offensive coordinator. It feels like Johnson's worst days are behind him. Unless you're ridiculously stacked at the running back position, I'm locking in Johnson for the rest of the season.

Michael Thomas

This one is tough to grasp. I wrote about Thomas last week and said there was no reason to panic, but he let me down big time in Week 13. Thomas has just 78 yards total over the past two games. He's crossed the 78-yard mark on six separate games this year.

We can tie the struggles directly to the low passing yard numbers from the Saints in the past two weeks. Thomas actually led the Saints in receiving yards in Week 13. He's still the number one option in the Saints passing attack by a country mile. But can we trust a receiver in an offense that has thrown for under 300 total yards in the last two weeks combined? We've effectively faded all options in the Arizona passing attack, is this any different?

Of course, it's different. It's Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and the New Orleans Saints. They should be able to turn this around rather quickly. When If they do, Thomas will return to form. You don't want to have him on the bench when this happens. It's hard to imagine the Saints throwing for under 200 yards in three straight games. Still, it was hard to imagine them doing it in two straight games...

 

Weigh Your Options

There is a reason to proceed with caution on the following players. They still have hope to return to form, but be sure to weigh all your options before making a decision.

Jared Goff

Goff has been one of the NFL's best quarterbacks for most of the season. But we have seen him struggle at various points. He's had two distinct duds this year: last week against Detroit, and way back in Week 6 in Denver.

The Denver game is more pertinent here. It was Goff's only game of the season in the cold, and he struggled mightily. Goff hit lows in passing yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage in the mile-high city. Now, coming off his second worst game of the season, the Rams will travel to Chicago in the early winter to take on the Bears.

You can safely fade Goff this week if you have a decent option to replace him. He may surprise us, but playing in the cold against the NFL's best defense isn't exactly what you'd call a plus matchup. Goff should be a safe play in Week 15 when the Rams face the Eagles. The Rams get a championship week matchup against a decent Arizona secondary, so you'll have to reassess your quarterbacks should you make it that far.

Mike Evans

No offense has been more frustrating than Tampa Bay this season. It's been inconsistency across the board. Both of their quarterbacks have played like Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf at various points in the season. This doesn't bode well for any player to work as a weekly option.

When it comes to players with a sink-or-swim type situation, you typically stick with them when they're as talented as Evans. But the ROS schedule is concerning. He's basically a must-start against New Orleans this week, but Tampa Bay ends the fantasy season with Baltimore and Dallas, the two best defenses against receivers this season. If Evans struggles against the Saints this week, owners will have to consider fading him for the rest of the fantasy playoffs. If he dominates against New Orleans, you'll still have to weigh your options considering the matchups lying ahead of him. It's a tough road for Evans owners to navigate.

Sony Michel

The return of Rex Burkhead has thrown a wrench into Michel's fantasy value. Just take a look at the box score from this weeks game against Minnesota. While Michel still led the way with 17 carries for 63 yards, Rex Burkhead and James White added six and seven carries respectively. To make matters worse, fullback James Develin vultured two short-yardage touchdowns, including one right after Michel was stuffed at the one-yard line.

Michel is the clear lead back in New England, but with a third mouth to feed, this has become more of a committee. He's still a valuable player and will likely find his way into your lineup a few more times this year, but he isn't a must-start like he was before his injury. The Patriots simply have too many options.

 

Proceed With Caution

You may have better options than these guys heading into the fantasy playoffs.

Mark Ingram

The Saints offense isn't hot enough to sustain three must-start skill players at the moment, and Ingram seems like the odd man out. He's been more of a boom-or-bust option since returning from his early-season suspension. He's had three games with under 50 total yards, five games without a touchdown, and two games with over 100 yards on the ground. He's not a reliable play and is a middling flex option at best. Hold off on rolling out Ingram unless you're truly desperate.

Marlon Mack

Mack has gone from potential league-winner to potentially unplayable in a short amount of time. After back-to-back games with over 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Mack has had four consecutive games with under 100 total yards and has only found the end zone once in that stretch. Volume will keep him in the mix as a flex option, but it's hard to trust Mack in back-to-back tough matchups against the Texans and Cowboys. He's a risky start.

 

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